Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sunday's puzzle solved: December 31, 2017

Today's time: 27:17.  At this point, anything under a half hour on a Sunday is a victory.

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On this, the last day of 2017, the Year That America Died, John Lampkin "rings" in the new.  That means he takes the Os (the rings) in clued answers out at the top half of the puzzle, and adds them in clued entries at the top half of the puzzle.  Both types of answers, O negative and O positive, are clued as they actually are written rather than as the traditional phrases they replace.

(Before I finished this puzzle, I thought Lampkin had moved the Os from the across answers to the downs and maybe it was a visual pun on the ball dropping.  I don't know.)

Anyway, so "list of things said by Siri" is CELL RECITAL, and the O from cello is taken out.  Or "Washington D.C.?" is POL GROUNDS, with the O in polo taken out.  Then on the bottom half we have such things as "treat that gives a glowing complexion?" which is URANIUM OREO.  And "weeklong Irish vacation" is SEVEN DAYS IN MAYO.  Ha ha!  My vote for the funniest themed clue is "result of a French powdered drink shortage?" which is LAST TANG IN PARIS.

"New Deal org." is one of those clues that can have lots of answers.  This one is CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps.  The government employed people to plant trees and make trails in national parks.  We would be wise to repeat this venture.

"Legends in the automotive world" is ACURAS, which I would have considered a very clever clue if I had only known that the Legend is a luxury model made by Acura.  As it is, I was baffled.

"Blade runner?" is FAN and not *SKI which I had originally.  "Wise sorts" is OWLS and not *GUYS.

I have not heard of the crossword world's other Erle, ERLE C. Kenton, a director and one of the original Keystone Kops.  He made some genuine 1930s B-grade schlock as well as House of Dracula and Island of Lost Souls.

"Nessun Dorma" is the ARIA from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot, sung by Calaf as he boasts to the titular princess that he can solve her riddles.

Gotta brush up on those state symbols!  Indiana's state flower is the PEONY.

EDESSA was an ancient city in Mesopotamia, located in present-day Turkey.  It switched hands during the Crusades but was finally absorbed by the Ottoman Empire.

By gosh, OSH is the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan and is said to be 3000 years old.

"Wand material in the Harry Potter books" for ELM is a very bad clue, as the wands can be made of any wood.

For "'King Lear' role" I had *REGAN, but it's EDGAR, the young heir framed by his brother for plotting to kill their father.  He disguises himself as a crazy beggar named Tom.

IONE is the heroine in the novel The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward "It was a dark and stormy night" Bulwar-Lytton.  She is a high-born Greek orphan set to marry the protagonist, Glaucus, but pursued by her nasty ward Arbaces.  This name has also appeared in the puzzle as a sea nymph and as the actress Ione Skye.

The Last Stuart queen was ANNE, daughter of James II.  She was not just the last Stuart queen but last Stuart monarch; her successor was George I, her second cousin, of the house of Hanover.

The 1974 CIA spoof is the poorly-rated movie S*P*Y*S, starring Robert Gould and Donald Southerland, who were coincidentally in M*A*S*H.

I'm not sure either OTERO county (in New Mexico or Colorado!) is well-known enough to merit placement in a Sunday puzzle.  I think they're probably both named after a municipality in Spain.

Clever clues: "Work as a branch manager?" is LOP.  "Neuron's ends?" is ENS.

That's the end.  Happy NYE.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday's puzzle solved: December 30, 2017

My time: 16:16, a new record!  I haven't beaten a record in a long while.

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This puzzle is by Damon Gulczynski.  No theme, but a great deal of delicious esoteric and novel fill: MC ESCHER, [Leon] CZOLGOSZ, CAN I GET A WITNESS, NOT VALID, SOCIAL DARWINISM, BAD APPLE, ZYDECO, RUN D.M.C., SO IT IS.... great stuff.

The answer that probably gave me the most trouble is DASHIKIS for "colorful pullovers."  It's an African garment, often with a V-neck.  It seems to be a trendy style choice for African Americans.

Dashikis is crossed with DAMASK, a "patterned fabric."  This was an answer on October 13, clued as a reversible fabric.

Mark O'MEARA was a big PGA tour winner in the 1980s and '90s.  He's in the World Gold Hall of Fame.

I did not know that the phrase "Nice guys finish last" was said about Mel OTT.  I also didn't know that Leo Durocher said it.  Also, I've never heard of Durocher. 

Double meanings can be tricky.  "Cracks" is QUIPS and not *QUITS, which I had initially.  Inclines is TENDS and not *RAMPS.

HAMID Karzai was once president of Afghanistan.  He started, of course, as chairman of the transitional commission after Operation Enduring Freedom.  Did you know that he survived a US friendly fire missile attack?  The current president is Ashraf Ghani.

"The Chosen One" of the NBA is KING JAMES, which is another nickname for the 6'8" small forard for the Cavaliers, LeBron James.  Apparently he has a tattoo of "The Chosen One."

Never heard of any of it department: INI Kamoze, singer of "Here Comes the Hotstepper."  What?

EMU oil is an ingredient in health care products?  More like snake oil.

The Conseil d'ETAT is the French supreme court and legal adviser for the executive.

ANN is a woman's name that means "grace," from the Hebrew, apparently.  Related are Anna and Hannah.

Point SUR is a state park in California where the historic 1889 Point Sur Lighthouse is located.

Clever clues: "Loss prevention association?" is MNEMONIC.  "Option for people who can't handle he truth?" is DARE. "Keystone figure" is KOP.  "Pole vault unit?" is ZLOTYS --- that's an extra-clever one.  "Composition of some beds" is LAVA.  "Miss's counterpart" is HIT (and not *SIR).  "They often precede hikes" is HUTS. 

Wow!  I can't believe I finished that fast.  That was WAC!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday's puzzle solved: December 29, 2017

Today's time: 26:49, longer than my average Friday.

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A pretty straightfoward, but very tough to me, David Steinberg themeless.  I like some of this unusual fill, though: EVIL GRIN, DEAD SEXY, PANORAMA, PARTY GIRL, JOY BUZZER, OKEY DOKEY.

Percocet is an opioid pain reliever, and OXYCONTIN is as well.

"Lydia neighbor" is IONIA.  Ionia was an ancient region on what is now the west coast of Turkey, while Lydia was an Iron Age region of Anatolia, located to the east.

ETNA was an answer yesterday!  This time it's a more fun clue, though: "Zeus trapped Typhon under it."

QB protectors are RGS.  Right Guards, I guessed (correctly).  I have never heard that term before, despite being an American male.  Is the deodorant named after the football position?

Apparently, BALI ("The Island of the Gods") is known for its meditation retreats?

"Rockaria!" is a song on ELO's album A New World Record.  These guys were an answer for "Mr. Blue Sky" on December 10.

I way over-thought "Passover meal in Exodus."  I was thinking it had to be something about matzo or bitter herbs or something from Jewish lore.  But it's just LAMB ROAST.

Georgia ENGEL got two Emmy nominations for her role as Georgette Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Never heard of Jerome "The Bus" BETTIS.  He was a halfback who played for the Rams and the Steelers.

I don't think I agree that the Whigs were the ancestor of today's GOP.  There was a Democratic Party of the time that opposed them, but that doesn't mean their values are recognizable to today's GOP.

New Jersey's state tree is the stately RED OAK.

Erika SLEZAK has won six Daytime Emmys, presumably for her role as Victoria Lord on One Life to Live.

I've heard of Gay TALESE, but not Honor Thy Father, which is a nonfiction novel about the real-life Bonnano crime family.

"Container a spoiler, say" confused me for a long time.  It's SPORTY.  It means the spoiler on a car.

J.LO is a 4x platinum album.  (Which I would have known if I'd remembered October 31.) I have never heard her song "I'm Real."  I listened to some of it, and all I can say is that Ja Rule is very annoying.  I'm not really a Billboard Top Ten Hits listener.

Clever clues: "Checks for bugs" is BETA-TESTS.  "Ones concerned with stress" is POETS.  "Letters before Q" is LGBT; you got me, Steinberg!  "Stick it to?" is GORE (and not *GLUE). "Leopard spot" is ZOO.

DEARY ME, this took a long time.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Thursday's puzzle solved: December 28, 2017

Today's time: 18:45.

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Gary Larson tries to UP THE ANTE in difficulty.  The themed (across) phrases have the letters ante in them, but these are not written out across.  Instead, that part of the clue goes northwards, or UP, and then you continue reading across as normal.  At first, I thought the ante part went into one box, as in a rebus, but eventually the penny(-ante?) dropped and I realized the visual joke.

So "where you might be a criminal" is WAD POSTER, with the ETNA being the cross clue at A that provides the ante part.  "Coming-out party" is DEBUTA BALL, crossed with PET NAMES providing the raised ante.  And so on.  My favorite reveal is DAS INFERNO, which sounds like the German film adaptation (it crosses with WET-NAP).

Abraham BEAME was the 104th mayor of New York, presiding 1974-77 during the city's financial crisis.

TAG UP for "touch base" baffled me for a good long time.  I thought it was about the game of tag, but no, silly most-clueless American male about sports, it's a baseball term.  Basically it means you have to stay on your base when the ball is caught by a fielder.

SPARTA was known to the Greeks as Lacedaemon.  Thus the lambda as their symbol.  The city-state proper was called Lacedaemon, while Sparta referred to their main settlement.

Never heard of her department: Santha Rama RAU was an Indian travel writer.  She was the first Indian to be accepted at Wellesley College in Massacusetts.

Here are the people named ANA we've seen in puzzles so far: ANA Gasteyer of SNL today, ANA Navarro the CNN commentator on December 17, and ANA Cabrera the CNN journalist on August 25.  Moral?  If you want to be a crossword champ, study your Anas.

Crossword mainstay Mt. ETNA is "SW of Messina," a major city in Sicily located on the eastern border of the island, right by Italy's boot toe.

Note to self: the food thickener obtained from algae is called AGARDaminozide is a growth regulator, often mislabeled a pesticide, that is commonly called Alar.  Don't confuse them!

ALFA was a class of super-fast Soviet submarines developed in the Cold War.

It is instructive to remember that IRAN is on the Gulf of Oman, while Iraq borders the Persian Gulf.  Iran is to the east of Iraq and bordered by the t.a.p.stans --- Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan --- on the east.

Clever clues: "Something a Mississippi cheerleader repeatedly calls for" is AN I.  "Volcanoes develop over them" is EONS.

Sigh.  I guess all's well that ENDS slowly.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday's puzzle solved: December 27, 2017

Today's time: 10:58, which isn't too bad.

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This one's by David Kwong.  Celebrating the magic of Sin City, he asks us to identify "what some performers saw in Las Vegas?"  Why, they saw LADIES / IN HALF.  That's the capper to the theme, which might only become visible after it's been filled in: the names of four Ladies have been cut in half and placed in the puzzle on the east and west borders.

GAG ORDER across from BODEGA gives us [Lady] GA ... GA.  GOD OF LOVE across from SHIVA gives us [Lady] GOD ... IVA.  JANET across from AGNES GREY gives us [Lady] JANE ... GREY.  And CHATTY across from ADDERLEY gives us [Lady] CHATT ... ERLEY.

Clever!

I filled in RBI for "sluggers' stat" right away, probably thanks to its appearance on September 4.

On September 21 we had the dreadful "miscall," and now we have the only slightly better MISPLAY for "error at cards."

I had not heard of Anne Brontë's first novel, AGNES GREY.  The titular Agnes is a governess who eventually marries a fine gentleman.

I'd vaguely heard the name Cannonball ADDERLEY, but could not have told you that he was a saxophonist. Born Julian Edwin Adderley, he worked with Miles Davis and had a hit with "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."  Good stuff.  Also interesting to note: his nickname derived from the original "Cannibal," based on his voracious appetite.

For "CIA's forerunner" I put *NSA (whoops, that still exists!), but it's OSS, or Office of Strategic Services.

I've never heard of the Frankie Avalon hit "DEDE Dinah."  It sounds like a song written and sung by the Muppets.

INERTIAL mass (of F=ma fame) is opposed, sort of, to gravitational mass.

In "West Side Story," TONY is a member of the white gang, the Jets, who falls in love with Maria, who is the sister of Bernardo, leader of the Puerto Rican gang the Sharks.

Apparently the musical note E is the enharmonic equivalent of F FLAT?  Why?  Why even call it that, then?  I'm so confused.  Is A the same as B flat?

There are many movie theaters called RIALTO.  Originally, it's the central area of Venice.

Clever clue: "Message from a short person?" is SEND CASH.

This was a DAM fine puzzle.  I just don't SEA why I didn't do it faster.  There wasn't very much new to me today.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Tuesday's puzzle solved: December 26, 2017

Today's time: 9:39.

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Peter Gordon made a puzzle honoring A.J. JACOBS (an author whose books I have enjoyed, but his best is The Know-It-All).  Some of the themed clues read "see blurb" and on the app you can't see the entire blurb, but it turns out it's a quip by him, something like how he loved appearing in the puzzle, but he's:
STILL A FIVE-LETTER / WORD STARTING WITH / LOS- AND ENDING IN -ER.
Ha ha!

So anyhow.  Lots of unusual and kind of tough fill in this one, like ABSCESS, BAY AREA, RESONATE, CAPITAL W, SCOUT CAR and so on.

I've never heard of the Ja Rule hit "I CRY."  I'm not sure I've heard of Ja Rule.  The video for "I Cry" is unintentionally amusing.

I got TORERO because of its appearance on December 9.

ASANAS are yoga positions.  There are apparently 84 classic asanas.  In the crossword I have seen two: Vrikshasana, the tree position, appeared October 8.  Virasana, the kneeling "hero pose," appeared November 24.  And, of course, hatha yoga appeared November 26, but that's not a position.  The NYT crossword puzzle loves yoga!

Clever clue: "Mark never seen in an online crossword" is ERASURE.

There was nothing else that was new to me.  The clues were straightforward as well.  I don't know why this took me so long!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Monday's puzzle solved: December 25, 2017

Today's time: 7:15, ugh.

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Lynn Lempel beat me up with this puzzle that celebrates the HIT PARADE --- not musical hits, but synonymous ones in certain phrases: SHOT CLOCK (like in basketball), WAX BEAN (with the old timey "wax" meaning), SUN BELT ("snowbirds' destination"), and so on.  I enjoyed seeing LUCY VAN PELT in the puzzle.

I messed up any chance of a decent time with *FENCE for "gate closer."  It's LATCH, and it took me a good while to see that.

I've never heard of a Charlotte RUSSE.  Charlottes are molded desserts, and a Charlotte Russe is made with ladyfingers, Bavarian cream, and fruit sauce. (It also seems to be a clothing retail company.)

Mel OTT is a baseball great ("honored in Cooperstown").  He played in the 1920s and '40s.  His nickname was Master Melvin, which sounds like a minor supervillain.  Wikipedia: "Ott's name frequently appears in crossword puzzles, on account of its letter combination and brevity."  That's how I've heard of him!

"Liebestod" is the ARIA from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

LAYETTE is not in my wheelhouse, though I've heard the term.

Even though I know perfectly well who MIRA Sorvino is, I put *MINA because I was flustered or something.

ILIE Nastase appears again, last seen by me on October 5.

I didn't find this puzzle very fun.  A lot of straight definitions for clues ("bottle stopper" for CORK, "soft mineral" for TALC, etc).  Not a lot of wordplay.  Oh well.  NEXT!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Sunday's puzzle solved: December 24, 2017

My time: 43:41, surely the longest time I've posted yet on this blog.

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Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen teamed up to nearly defeat me, and I think I put the last four squares in with literally a minute to spare before the day ended.  There were just so many tricks and hard clues that I gave up several times.

It's really extraordinarily clever.  Maybe too clever.  There is a RUDOLPH theme, with the answers GENE AUTRY, SHINY NOSE, and THE MOST FAMOUS / REINDEER OF ALL.  There's also a sole solitary rebus in the NW corner.  The word red is in one box, to form [RED]RUM crossed with SH[RED]S.  That's because --- and this is where we separate the elk from the deer, theme-wise --- if you connect the circled boxes from A to Z and back again, there's a picture of a reindeer, and where his nose is, is the box with [RED] in it.  Dang, that's above and beyond.

Not to mention the SANTA and NORTH POLE answers crammed in there.

So, I also had quite a bit of trouble with the main fill (like "pitch" being EIGHTY-SIX), but in the interests of brevity I'm going to just stick with the main difficulties.  Otherwise this post will reach Moby-Dick lengths.

"West Indies native" is CARIB, because that island group is in the Caribbean.  The West Indies is also called the Caribbean Basin.

The GILA River is a tributary of the Colorado.

ARBY'S was founded by the Raffel brothers, Forest and Leroy, in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964.  I always assumed the name came from the initials of Roast Beef, but no, it's Raffel Brothers.

Some Carnaval (the spelling is Portuguese) performances are SAMBAS.

"Called from the cote" is BLEATED, because apparently a cote can be a sheep pen as well as a bird coop.  I had *TWEETED and all other manner of nonsense until this finally became clear.

"Male that might be in a rut?" is ELK.  I thought maybe *RAT if the rut was a kind of pun for rat race.

I've never heard of COE College, the small liberal arts school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

SNUGLIS are a brand of baby carrier invented by Anne Moore.

I did not understand the wordplay behind "chemistry exam?" (ASSAY), but it's just a word meaning a test for the presence or activity in a substance, used in medicine and biology.

I knew that a neighbor of a bishop was a knight or rook, but the answer KNT is not good.  In algebraic chess notation, a knight is simply N.  In descriptive notation, it's either Kt or N.  No one uses "KNT."  Boo, bad answer.

"Symbol of the National Audubon Society" appeared October 14, and sadly, I had forgotten it.  It's still EGRET.

To have the answers E-CARD and E-SIGN in the same puzzle is a bit inelegant, and it made me consider whether one of those was wrong.

"Hey PAULA" was a 1963 #1 hit by Paul and Paula.

"Animal on Scotland's coat of arms" is UNICORN (and lion).  However, this seems to be historically; nowadays it seems to be a sole ruddy lion in a field of gold.

I seem to have always thought that French actress Audrey TAUTOU was "Tatou."  And I know of her!  I enjoyed Amélie!  Similarly, I thought "Fanfare for the Common Man" composer Aaron COPLAND was spelled "Copeland."

"Opposite of dep." baffled the hell out of me.  It's ARR.  Only once I googled them both did I realize that they refer to departure and arrival.  I couldn't stop thinking of deposit.

"It moves a cursor back" is LEFT KEY.  I tried *LEFT TAB at first.  I made it harder than it had to be.

Hair straighteners, RELAXERS, are not in my wheelhouse.  I'm male.  And white,

Never heard of him department: Tennis great ANKE Huber.  I honestly thought her name was Huber Anke, and searched her as such.  I have made this mistake before.  I also thought she was a man.  Anyway, she was the runner up at the 1996 Australian Open.

SADR City is a suburb of Baghdad.  It was formerly known as Saddam City, and before that, Revolution City.  I wonder why they changed it?

In computer code, a DO-LOOP repeats a statement or block of statements while a Boolean condition remains true.  It is also called a "do while loop."

"Durham sch." messed me up.  Of course, I kept thinking about North Carolina.  But it's UNH, the University of New Hampshire, which is located in Durham, New Hampshire.

Clever clues: "Yule sound?" is LONG U.  "Mobile home" is ALA.  "Body check" is OGLE.

I've had my PHIL of this too-hard puzzle.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday's puzzle solved: December 23, 2017

My time: 26:55.

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Today's themeless puzzle comes by way of Matthew Sewell, and it's a doozy.  With four long, unusual fills (SEXIEST MAN ALIVE, ITALIAN-AMERICAN, CHANCE THE RAPPER, and STUDIO EXECUTIVE) at the across belts, and lots of obscure terms throughout, this puzzle kept me guessing for a good long time.  It was one of those that stays nearly blank for about the first third of the solve time, until at last one or two more pennies drop, and then it's a steady slog.

Right off, I was stymied by "bygone can opener."  I had *WING TAB (because of this kind, with "wings") for a long time, but it's RING TAB.  Ugh.

SATRAPS is a word I know, but it didn't occur to me for "provincial despots."

"In wilderness is the preservation of the world."  I figured this for a THOREAU quote, and it's from his 1862 essay "Walking."

AZT, or Zidovudine, is the antiretroviral medication used to prevent and treat AIDS.

Here's something that only a person with a Doctorate in Marmoset Diets (Ph.MarDi) knows: much of their diet is TREE SAP.

"Daring deed" is GEST, which is pretty archaic, but then it's Saturday.

I've heard of CHANCE THE RAPPER, but I don't exactly follow his career.  He won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2016.

"Some football linemen" is RTS, which is Right Tackles.  Since I'm the American male who is the single most clueless about sports in the country, I didn't know this, which is part of the reason for the ring-wing confusion about the can opener.

Apparently NOXZEMA was once known as "The Miracle Cream of Baltimore."  Here is a great article about the rise and fall of George Bunting's miracle product.

I disagree that "Shh, something's coming!" is equivalent to I HEAR IT.  "It" implies that you know what the thing is, not an undefined "something."

"A light brownish-gray" is BUTTERNUT.  Okay then.

Köln and Nürnberg are both STADTs.  This does not mean the states that make up the country of Germany.  STADT is the German word for city; thus the umlauts and non-English spelling of Nuremberg.

I have never heard of a PAVLOVA, the berry meringue dessert.  It was created in New Zealand, according the the OED, and named after Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina.

I have also never heard of SPELMAN, the historically black women's college in Atlanta.

MT. EVEREST is known as Chomolungma in Tibetan.

The AINU are indigenous Japanese people.  Here is a good photo essay on them vis-a-vis the more homogeneous Japanese culture.

George Tenet is of course the ex-director of the CIA, and wrote the book At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA.  He was the second-longest serving director.

ARNO was an answer on August 11, for pretty much the same clue: "It flows near the Piazzale Michelangelo."  See, here it is.

Clever clues: "Name often said before this clue's number" [45] is COLT.  "Certain aisle terminus" is ALTAR.  "Flat figures" is TENANTS.  "'She's Like the Wind' and others" is SIMILES, ha ha, gotcha, it's not *BALLADS. "Come to a boil" is SEE RED.  "Discuss thickness with a doctor?" is LISP, ugh.

Very challenging puzzle!  My slow time doesn't CUT IT!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday's puzzle solved: December 22, 2017

My time: 21:30.

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This puzzle, by Sam Trabucco, has a sorta-maybe theme of... double letters?  That might just be a coincidence.  At first I thought it had a room theme, featuring as it does ESCAPE ROOM and ROOM TO NEGOTIATE, but then there's THE LEGION OF DOOM where another room word ought to go, and then there's a very large amount of double letters: BOO-HOOED, GALLIVANTED, TALLAHASSEE, TECH SCHOOLS, SNAKE EYES, STRESS EATER...  All rather unusual fill, but I don't know if there's a theme here.

Abba EBAN was an Israeli diplomat, the Ambassador to the United States, and apparently born Aubrey Solomon Meir Eban.  He changed his name to Abba from the Hebrew word for father, as he saw himself as the father of Israel.  Gee, ego much, Aubrey?

SERGEI Rachmaninoff was a Russian pianist and composer who started playing piano at age four.  He is well known for many compositions, particularly "Prelude in C-Sharp Minor."  It was said that his hands could span an octave and half.  They may have been a symptom of his poor health.

There were five major engagements during WWI at the Belgian town of YPRES.  John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" was composed after the second battle of Ypres.

I didn't know that the show "Black-ish" was on ABC.  I don't watch much TV.

DIDO is well known as the founder of Carthage, in myth.  Also, remember that she is also called Elissa.  In the Aeneid, Dido and Aeneas fall in love through the actions of Juno and Venus.  After Aeneas sails away to Italy, commanded to do so by Jupiter and Mercury, Dido throws herself on a funeral pyre and a sword.  When they meet in the underworld, it's awwwkwaaard.

For "low throw," I kept thinking about tossing a ball, like a grounder, but it's a dice roll, SNAKE EYES.

Is PONG really how people informally refer to ping-pong?  "Hey, bro, wanna play some pong?  I'm ready to pong it up."  Beer pong, maybe.

"Days of yore, in days of yore" is ELD.  It's an archaic word for antiquity.  It also means one's age or period in life.  "Conan was tall and broad for his eld."

I didn't know that Ellis Island was named for a merchant, Samuel ELLIS.  He doesn't even have his own Wikipedia article.  He owned the island.

"Letters on old film boxes," AGFA, stands for American Genre Film Archive.

For "screw over," I put *CHEAT, and grew puzzled as it became clear that it wasn't right.  It's SHAFT.

For "guidelines observed in sisterhood," I was thinking of some kind of religious order for nuns, but it's the more pedestrian GIRL CODE.

"Do some diamond cutting?" is MOW.  I didn't understand this, and am not sure even now.  I think it's about the criss-cross diamond pattern that some people cut in their lawns?

For "way out," I put *EGRESS, but it's the other meaning.  FREAKY, man.

Clever clues: "Commitment you something can't get out of?" is ESCAPE ROOM (though I'm not sure if commitment is strictly accurate). "Bazaar makeup" is SHOPS (and not *KOHLS).  "Beauty mark?" is TEN.  "Lee side?" is REBS (I was wondering if it was going to be a jeans-related pun).  "What's always found in quotes?" is PRICE.  "Corn site" is TOE (and not *EAR or *COB or *ROW).

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thursday's puzzle solved: December 21, 2017

Today's time: 15:24.

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Alex Eaton-Salners constructed a puzzle with a theme based around the shape which some of the black squares form.  Rising from the southern edge is a two-pronged stick of black squares.  This shapes is described in the puzzle variously as THE LETTER Y, a TURNING FORK, GOAL POSTS, and a SLINGSHOT.  Clever!  A+ construction, would do this theme again.

Also, lots of modern and unusual fill like WHATEVS, AL FRANKEN, PEEL OUT, and GENERAL HOSPITAL (which has won a record 13 Outstanding Drama Series Emmys).

We've all heard of Francis, but have we heard of St. Clare of ASSISI?  No, we haven't.  She was one of the first followers of Francis, and is the patron saint of eye disease, laundry, and television.  All having to do with things that ruin your eyesight, I guess.  Her monastic order is known as the Poor Clares.

"Form of sum" is ERAT.  That is, it's a declension of the Latin verb "to be."  I got stuck thinking of math for a while.

St. PETE, "site of a spring vacay," is St. Pete Beach, a resort city west of St. Petersburg.

SFO is the airport code for San Francisco International, the seventh-busiest airport in the US.

I didn't know IVANKA Trump pretended to write a dreadful book!

"One's Nintendo avatar" is called a MII.

The Lincoln Center has a movie theater called the Walter READE Theater.  And who was Walter Reade?  He was "The Showman of the Shore," the owner of a chain of movie houses in New Jersey.  He successfully brought AromaRama to moviegoers.  He was killed in a skiing accident in Switzerland.

I remembered "oil and gas giant" HESS from its October 2 appearance as a toy truck distributor.

"Relative of cream" stymied me for too long.  I was thinking dairy products, not color hues.  It's ECRU.

Clever clue: "What does follow?" is STAG.  "Ones involved in wishful thinking?" is GENII.  "Pole star?" is SANTA.  "Knight 'hood?" is CASTLE.

I RECKON I could have done that a bit faster.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday's puzzle solved: December 20, 2017

My time: 8:55, not too shabby.

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This puzzle, courtesy of Talitha Randall, has the theme of... NINE.  Themed answers include ONE and EIGHT on the same row; FOUR and FIVE on the same row; and SEVEN and TWO on the same row.  Also, SEPT, NEIN and NONA-.  And CLOUD nine.  And nine LIVES.  Well, at least the theme is pretty thorough.  Maybe if this puzzle appeared on September 9 it would tickle me more?  As it is, I find it pretty INANE.  It's a theme without a reason to be.  But then, they can't all be gems.

"Pennsylvania, for example" gave me pause.  It's AVENUE, as in the White House address.  And a green property in Monopoly.

"Game-ending cry at a card table" is GIN, but *UNO crossed my mind.

I've heard of designer MARC Jacobs!

LLCS appeared in the singular this past Sunday.

I knew AD-IN ("possible score after 40-all") thanks to its appearance November 21.

The opera AIDA by Giuseppe Verdi is partially set on the banks of the Nile.  The titualar Aida is an enslaved Ethiopian princess.  In Act 3, she and Radamès, the Egyptian army commander, meet and plan to marry.

SONANT ("voiced") is a word I struggled with.  It means having a sound, but in phonetics, it does mean voiced, and its opposite is surd.  Is a B surd?  No, it is sonant.  But S is surd.  Here's an explainer.

"Sunset's direction, in Sorrento" also stymied me.  It's OVESTSorrento is an Italian town overlooking the Bay of Naples.  I don't parlo Italiano.

INDIGENE is another pretty obscure word for a Wednesday, in my opinion.  Indigenous, yes; the noun form, no.

I've never heard of LUC Jacquet, but I have heard of his famous film March of the Penguins.

I was glad that my original guess for "what transported Dorothy to Oz" --- TORNADO --- was right, and it wasn't the original *CYCLONE.  Glad because it worked out quicker, but slightly sad that it isn't really accurate.

Clever clue: "Gains yardage?" is SODS.  I thought it might be *RUNS, like in football.

Overall a very fine puzzle, the right difficulty for a Wednesday.  I just wasn't wowed by the theme. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday's puzzle solved: December 19, 2017

Today's time: 11:44.

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It's an early Christmas courtesy of Andrew Kingsley!  This puzzle features not one CANDY CANE but four: candy cane-shaped arcs of circled squares that spell out the names of candy brands: POP ROCKS, AIR HEADS (running backwards and south in the NE corner), BIT-O-HONEY, and STARBURST (running backwards and south in the SE corner).  To make this kind of puzzle where extra words are formed within the usual crossfill is, to me, just jaw-droppingly clever.  Hats off!  Kudos!  And so on.

Clever, and deuced difficult for a Tuesday.

ALDO Gucci is not the company's founder; he's the son of the repetitively-named Guccio Gucci.

Apparently ERNIE / ELS won the British open in 2015.  I had the idea that he was an old-timer who was possibly dead, but no, he was born in 1969.  His nickname is "The Big Easy."

According to the puzzle, the words banjo and gumbo came from the BANTU language group (of which Swahili is the most widely spoken), which surprised me, as I was guessing it would be some Amerind language.  According to the etymology dictionary, banjo is a maybe, and gumbo is a probably.

I did not know UGGS came from Australia.  That is, the item and the word come from Australia, but the brand does not. Uggs the brand of uggs comes from California.

The non-standard spelling of "Lorelei" in LORELAI Gilmore slowed me down.

Baden-baden is a SPA as well as a concentration camp?

"Vermeer and Rembrandt contemporary" is Jan STEEN, a Dutch realist whose work has a lot of energy and humor.

"Archeological handle" is super tricky for a Tuesday!  What is ANSA?  It's Latin for handle!  Come on.  Who knows that besides Latin scholars?  And then to clue it in that punny way.  Tough!

The Disney film TANGLED was the most expensive animated film ever made.  But why?  Deleted scenes, rewrites, and that hair!

Another thing you have to know if you're going to be a crossword maven is various currencies.  LEU, the Romanian currency.  It's subdivided into 100 bani.

For "potful for Winnie-the-Pooh" is put *HUNNY since that's the way it's spelled in the books, but it's HONEY, probably so it can fit in BIT-O-HONEY.

The tuber OCA is a South American plant also known as uqa and New Zealand yam for some reason.

Clever clues: "I'm not buying it!" is RENTAL.  "Put an end to something?" is SIT.  "Number for a surgeon?" is GAS.  "Succumb to pressure?" is BURST.

Whew!  Clever puzzle, fun clues, unusually hard!  Some of DEM clues made me say SOS!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday's puzzle solved: December 18, 2017

My time: 5:00.

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Bruce Haight tells us to find our INNER DEMONS, which is what the themed cues literally feature: "Water Lilies painter" CLAUDE MONET,  LGBTQ's PRIDE MONTH (which is June), MADE MONEY, and CODE MONKEY.

On October 29, AXON appeared clued as "neural conductor."  Today, it's "nerve cell part."

"Sailors' yesses" is AYS, not ayes.  A fair if non-standard spelling.

I had trouble with NUN of the answers, so I wish I'd been a bit faster and gotten a new record.  Oh well.  This was a decent, easy Monday.  No particularly clever clues.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sunday's puzzle solved: December 17, 2017

Today's time: 24:08.

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Andre J. Reis tries to get a rise out of us with this tricky themed Sunday.  A long O sound is added to the themed answers, which are common titles or phrases, to make a new punny phrase.  So stiff as a board becomes STIFF AS A BORDEAUX ("comparatively strong, like some French wine?") and kosher pickle becomes KOSHER PICCOLO ("woodwind that's OK to play?").  Very imaginative, and it plays off of English's non-phonetic nature to produce some interesting spellings of the O sound, as in VANITY PHARAOH ("Egyptian leader obsessed with his appearance?") and ROLLING IN THE DEPOT ("shooting craps while waiting for one's train?").

Lots and lots of little bits of fill I didn't know right off today:

I don't think I've ever heard of comedian LOUIS NYE, but based on the descriptions of some of his bits, I wish I could see him on "The Steve Allen Show."

Peach MELBA is a dessert of peaches with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce.  It was named after the Australian soporano Nellie Melba.

"I had a dream, which was not all a dream," wrote Lord BYRON, in the cheery poem "Darkness."

Did you know that OPEL ("Wir leben Autos") was sold by GM in 2017?  Me neither.

GESSO returns for a third time, last seen October 29, clued this time as "white undercoat."

On November 10, DEV Patel appeared with the answer his last name; this time, it's his first.

I never read Infinite Jest, so had to figure out through crossfill that the protagonist is named HAL Incandenza.

I am not proud that I immediately knew "Dukes of Hazzard" spinoff "ENOS."

The powerful engine known as a HEMI is short for hemispherical combustion chamber.  I won't lie; the Wiki article may as well be in Japanese for all I can understand it.

The full motto of MGM studios is ARS gratia artis.

Wrigley Field's walls are IVIED, apparently.

The movie Ironweed took place is New York, ALBANY specifically.  I'm not sure this is general knowledge or guessable enough to be in the Sunday crossword.

ANA Navarro is a Republican CNN commentator who is vehemently anti-Trump.

Apparently BYU's mascots are the Cougars.  Why aren't they the Industrious Bees?

Welsh RAREBIT is basically cheese toast.  The name is, they say, a corruption of the original "Welsh rabbit," which sounds likely; it was probably originally an ironic way of pointing out that meat was an uncommon luxury.

Paul ANKA was an answer just yesterday.  Here's his song "Lonely Boy."

I don't know MIRA NAIR's name, but I am familiar with the titles of her movies, Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala.

Do you know what decreases a QB's rating?  INT!  That means interceptions!

The only reason I can find why an ICE SHOW could be "entertainment with camels, maybe" is that the Christmas Spectacular in Radio City Music Hall has real-life camels because of a nativity scene?

Dominik HASEK is a Czech-born goaltender knows as "The Dominator" and won the Stanley Cup two times.

Roman Polanski directed the 1979 movie TESS, starring Nastassja Kinski as the titular peasant girl.

And Inc.'s cousin LLC is a limited liability company.

Clever clues: "Things that people like to have ripped?" is ABS. "Long lunch?" is HERO.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday's puzzle solved: December 16, 2017

Today's time: 19:53, not too shabby.

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I didn't finish Friday's puzzle on time.  I completed it eventually, but not before the new day arrived, so that's an incomplete for me.

Sam Ezersky is the author of this themeless.  I enjoyed it and may have gotten a record time if I hadn't seen the V in "hit reality show starting in 2011" and promptly put *SURVIVOR, where it stayed way too long.  It's THE VOICE, and "Survivor" debuted eleven years earlier, in 2000.  I'm not a reality TV guy.

Paul ANKA has a star on Canada's Walk of Fame because, as it turns out, he was born in Ottawa.

The phrase in "least bit, in a phrase" is "I don't care a RAP."  A rap, as it turn out, is a counterfeit halfpenny formerly passed in Ireland.  Interesting!

I've heard of the Aesop fables "The Dogs and the Fox," and "The Crow and the Fox," but forgot "The HEN and the Fox."  Also called "The Cock and the Fox," which is, of course, a great name for a gay pub.

A mantis has only one EAR?  Now I've heard everything!  It's on their belly, between the middle and hind pairs of legs.  Crickets have ears on their front legs.  Insects are strange.

I misread "when the PGA Championship is held annually" as "where the PGA..." and assumed AUG was short for Augusta!  It's August, dummy.  As to where, it moves around, mostly in the east.  New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have hosted it the most.

ETHEL Kennedy is the widow of Robert Kennedy, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her human rights work.

TV host Julie CHEN is a CBS talk personality and long, long-running host of Big Brother.

The best material for outdoor furniture is TEAK, an insect- and water-resistant wood  I briefly had *IRON because of the incorrect crossfill *SURVIVOR.

"Papyrus, e.g." is SEDGE.  I didn't know the Egyptian writing material was made from a plant in the SEDGE family.  Actually, I kept thinking of it as the font.

"The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses," wrote OVID.  Actually he wrote something like, "Saepe creat molles aspera spina rosas."  I can only find it in books of quotations.

"Creatures captured in Hercules' 10th labor" are OXEN.  More typically styled cattle, as in the cattle of Geryon, a monster with three heads and six legs.  It was the returning with the cattle that proved to be the most difficult task, as various personages kept trying to steal them and Hera send a fly to sting them and scatter them around the country.

Clever clues: "Extra-special delivery" is OCTUPLET. "One way to go to Rome" is ALITALIA, which is the Italian national airline.  I was trying to make some sort of ancient Roman way like the Appian or something fit there.  "Do some course prep?" is TEE UP.  "Locale for touchdowns" is TARMAC.

FACT IS, this was a pretty enjoyable puzzle.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday's puzzle solved: December 14, 2017

Today's time: 19:06.

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This Thursday Timothy Polin advises us to BURY THE / HATCHET, and indeed the ax is buried: "butt out!" is NONE OF YOUR BEESW[ax], "everyone's duty?" is PERSONAL INCOME T[ax], and "chill out" is SIT BACK / AND REL[ax].  Very clever!

Lots of words with multiple meanings for fill this time around, like "fall apart in competition" being TANK and "discards" being SHEDS, for example.  Also clues with equally possible answers, such as ELECT (but not *ELITE) for "chosen few."  And the ones that gave me a lot of trouble, LAB MICE (but not *LAB RATS) for "involuntary test subjects," while ANT TRAP (and not *RAT TRAP) is a "defense against infestation."  That's devious!

"2800-mile river to Laptev Sea" is the LENA.  (No, not Lena Olin.) The Laptev Sea is in the Arctic Ocean, north of Siberia.  The Lena is the 11th longst river in the world and one of three Siberian rivers to the Arctic, the others being the Ob and the Yenisei.

"Model company?" is LIONEL.  The Lionel Corporation was a toy company that was famous for its model trains.

The hero of dangerously ignorant nonsense The Fountainhead is named Howard ROARK.  An equity firm that specializes in leveraged buyouts is named after him.  I bet they're fun at parties!

TIN is the anniversary gift (10th) between pottery (9th) and steel (11th).

I think maybe back in the murky mists of time I learned Grace's last name on "Will and Grace."  it's ADLER.  That's nice.

The "effect used by scientists to measure distance" is STELLAR / PARALL[ax].  That is the shift in position of an object such as a star that results from the actual shift of the observer.

For "extraction target" I kept thinking of a *VIP in a bad spot needing paramilitary rescue, but it's actually the extraction of ORE.

I'm familiar with Chuck COLSON, but couldn't come up with his name unaided.  His Wikipedia article makes him sound like some sort of philanthropist and holy man and not the cheap crook and hatchet man that he was.  (Hey!  Hatchet man!  Another buried hatchet!)

Clever clues: "Some wind blowers" is OBOISTS.  "Store with magazines" is ARMORY.  "It's well rounded" is ORB.  "Very basic things" is LYES.  "Wrapped up in court?" is ROBED.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday's puzzle solved: December 13, 2017

My time: 17:15.

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This puzzle, by Benjamin Kramer, shows you how to MAKE AN ENTRANCE ("arrive with fanfare").  But with a slight change in pronunciation, you also can make an entrance, as the three clued answers do: FRENCH ANTILLES, DRIVE-THROUGH, and SIDE LIGHTING.

It has to be a quick and straightforward one today, so let's get to it.

For "certain chemical weapon" I was thinking, gas something?  Then... *GAS BAGS??  But it's the pedestrian GAS BOMB.

"Org. concerned with reactions" the NRC last appeared September 12.

Long forgotten by me and last seen August 11 is "Irish coronation stone" LIA Fáil.

But I sort-of remembered "Mr. White Sox" Minnie MINOSO, "who played MLB in five different decades," from October 18.

Old Swedish coins are ORE.  One hundredth of a krona, they are properly spelled öre, although in Norway and Denmark it's spelled øre.

We've heard of El Cid, but did we know his full name, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar?  No, we did not.  Interesting fact: the Christians called him El Campeador, or "outstanding warrior."

I thought Optimas and Sedonas were fonts, but they're KIAS.

Is a TOE POKE an actual "unconventional soccer kick?" Yes, yes it is.

I was too eager with the *AMBUSH when it was WAYLAY, and that slowed me down.

I'm not sure I'm familiar with SIRENE, an Eastern European Feta-style brined cheese.

A TATER TOT is a "spud puppy?"  Cascadian Farm brands calls them that.

URAL comes up a lot as a crossword answer.  It's a mountain range, a river that flows into the Caspian sea, and apparently the territory north of Afghanistan in the game Risk.

MESA Verde National Park is in Colorado.

Clever clues: "Mars produces billions of them each week" is M AND MS. "Cabbage" made me think of money slang so I put *SALAD, but it's BREAD.

Not too much unfamiliar, but the clues were just clever enough to make this quite difficult.  Today's time is more than my Wednesday average. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday's puzzle solved: December 12, 2017

My time: 9:34.

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David J. Kahn showcases the current world's most expensive work of ART, SALVATOR MUNDI, an OIL by the OLD MASTER, LEONARDO DAVINCI, which recently sold at the auction house founded by James CHRISTIE for $450 million.

On a personal note, I believe that throwing around that kind of obscene sum for art acquisition is a sin when people are going hungry, not to mention a form of Trumpian member-measuring contest among people with more money than they do intelligence.  Which city is more worthy of our admiration, Abu Dhabi or Florence?  The one that throws money at art, or the one that creates it? 

But this is a super-clever crossword!  Nice job, David J. Kahn!

"Either of the Word Series winners  of 2004 and '05" is SOX, as in Boston Red SOX in '04 and Chicago White SOX in '05.  So many sox!  And yet knickerbockers get the shaft.

In basketball a PRESS is when you extend your defense into your opponents' back court.

Not only is April the cruellest month, APR is also Jazz Appreciation Mo.

Anita ODAY seems to be a very common crossword answer.

"Cartoonist Hoff of The New Yorker" turns out to be SYD Hoff, which is weak sauce, because he is far more famous for his children's books, most notably Danny And the Dinosaur, but also Sammy the Seal and Henrietta.

In Greek mythology, a mountain nymph is an OREAD.  Which I couldn't come up with without crossfill, showing yet again that my boasts of being a mythology maven are empty lies.

UTES is another very common crossword answer, but I was not sure that that tribe spoke Shoshoni.

Apparently CHARLES I once owned SALVATOR MUNDI.  How does one find out something like that?

Here is IONA again, the "college in Westchester County, NY."  Specifically it is in New Rochelle.  Go Gaels!  The Fightin' Gaels.

For "pornographic" I had *EROTIC but it's the more lascivious X-RATED.

I've never heard of, but perhaps should have, RON Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of George Washington and others.

Clever clues: "Some may be flying" is STARTS.  "First name in Solo flying?" is HAN.

And that's it.  OIL try to do better, but I feel like I KENT do much better!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday's puzzle solved: December 11, 2017

Today's time: 5:10.

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Today's puzzle, by Brian Thomas, has a phone theme.  The clue "they bring music to one's ears" (HEADPHONES) is a hint to the themed answers, which all begin with words that precede "phone:" ROTARY CLUB, MOBILE HOME, SMART ALECK, and so on.

A "Georgetown athlete" is a HOYA.  According to their site, "Many years ago... the University's teams were nicknamed 'The Stonewalls.' It is suggested that a student, using Greek and Latin terms, started the cheer Hoya Saxa!, which translates into "What Rocks!" The name proved popular and the term 'Hoyas' was eventually adopted for all Georgetown teams."  Jack the Bulldog is their mascot.  Sometimes school mascots don't make a lot of sense.

Did you know the ROTARY CLUB has a wheel logo?  Makes sense.

The ANASAZI were ancient Pueblo peoples.  Their name supposedly means "the ancient ones."

Hey, it's BOOLEAN logic again!  I was able to write this in quickly because of its appearance as a clue (for DATA TYPE) on November 18.

ODA Mae Brown was Whoopi Goldberg's character in Ghost.  Now that I know that, what do I do?

Well, that's all the clues that gave me pause.  YETI didn't get my fastest time!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday, December 10, 2017

My time: 23:58.

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Erik Agard and Laura Braunstein created this clever Sunday.  The themes clues are actors whose names have body parts in their names.  The body parts are crammed into one square, rebus-style.  So the "actors took on" BIT PARTS for the puzzle.

The squares read the same way both across and down, but with some pronunciation changes.  For example, DON C[HEAD]LE is crossed with LGBT magazine T[HE AD]VOCATE.  And there's O[LIVER] PLATT crossed with [LIVE R]ADAR.  The one that clued me in to the theme first was [EAR]THA KITT.

I've vaguely heard of TALIB Kweli.  He has a beard.

I am the single-most clueless American male about sports, an ongoing series: When it said "nine-time Pro Bowler," I honestly thought it referred to a pro bowler, not a football player.  it's John ELWAY, quarterback of the Denver Broncos and later general manager.  I'm not sure I understand what the Pro Bowl is.

I have a lot of trouble spelling JOHN [LEG]UIZAMO.

It's ETON collar again!

Did you know BANGOR is the seat of Penobscot County?  Did you know there was a Penobscot County?  Me neither.

I've seen Bride of Frankenstein, but I couldn't have come up with the star's name, ELSA LAN[CHEST]ER.

I have not heard of Filipino dish PORK ADOBO.  Traditional pork adobo consists basically of garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, ground pepper and water.

I didn't know Hermione's Patronus.  I was never a Potterhead.  I found the first three books kind of derivative and kind of amateurish.  It's OTTER.  Otters are related to weasels, just like Hermione later would be by law.

The TSAR is the wearer of the Great Imperial Crown, also known as the Imperial Crown of Russia.  It is adorned with 4936 diamonds arranged in splendid patterns across the entire surface of the crown.  Bordering the edges of the "mitre" are a number of fine, large white pearls.  So rich!

You measure an ATOM in picometer, but what is a picometer? One trillionth of a meter.

I've heard of the song "Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO, but only from some other crossword puzzle.  ELO looks like a bunch of disco Bob Ross clones.

For "crash, with out," I put *CONK, which is more widely used, I believe, than ZONK.

Here's a fun fact, if by "fun" you mean kind of boring: I-20, I-65, and I-85 all meet at ATLANTA.  But according to this map they mean I-75 instead of I-65??

The ION was named by Michael Faraday.  He named it from the Greek word for going, since it goes from one electrode to the other.

For "face-to-face challenges" I put *DUELS.  It's ORALS.  Why are orals (oral exams, I assume) face-to-face challenges?

I learned about the musical "Dear Evan HANSEN" just a few days ago.  I can't recall where or why.

I'm a big comic book nerd, as I've mentioned a few times, but I'm not into manga.  I've never heard of NARUTO.  It was published in "Shonen Jump" in 1997.  It was adapted into anime and video games as well.  I've maybe heard people on the internet talk about this fox villain (?) Nine-Tails.  And I've maybe seen the blond spike-haired guy.

"Where one might raise a flap about a reservation" for TEPEE is a little tone-deaf.

Clever clues: "Dame modifier" is NOTRE.

That's it.  This one didn't drive me in SEINE (like Javert).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Today's time:  21:52.

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I didn't get around to Friday's puzzle in time.  I did a lot of it, but the new day came, so here's Saturday.

Stu Ockman, whose day job is clearly Marvel Comics put-upon nerd-turned-supervillain, created today's themeless.

ESAS is Spanish for "those."  I don't know Spanish.

Never heard of her department: RONA Barrett is an American gossip columnist.  Her autobiography, Miss Rona, seems to be a rather juicy read.

"Doctor of 1960s TV" is KILDARE, as in James Kildare, but he was so much more than a TV character.  He began in a magazine story, and has been featured in pulp novels, comics, and radio.  Richard Chamberlain starred in the 1960s American series.

"Without putting in any effort" is ON A PLATE.  I never really parsed the metaphor like that.  To me, if someone does a task and "I'll bring it to you on a plate!" it indicates success and with attention to detail.  But I'm wrong.

I read "talked over" as "discussed," but it means DROWNED OUT.

Red Sox slugger Tony ARMAS led the American League in home runs twice, but seemed to be brittle: he missed 302 games due to injuries.

I've vaguely heard of ANACIN, but missed the hilarious "Mother, please! I'd rather do it myself!" ad campaign.  Anacin is aspirin and caffeine.

A TORERO is the catch-all name for bullfighter, including the matadors and picadores and so on.  His work "may have sticking points," ha.

Science time, kids!  Listen to the liberal arts degree professor.  OCTANE is a hydrocarbon found in fuels, as in octane ratings on gasoline.  The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonating (igniting).  Use of gasoline with lower octane numbers may lead to the problem of engine knocking. So, as to the clue "measure of ping resistance," knock in its lesser form is known as ping.

The International Peace Garden straddles North Dakota and MANITOBA.  Its constitution "recognizes that wars between nations have been humanity's greatest curse; that its glories are a myth; and its continuance an abhorrence to the Creator."

So-clever-it-baffled-me clue: "Baby shower" turns out to be SONOGRAM.  Even with only two blank squares I didn't see it.  Finally I just out it in because it fit.  Only after a few seconds of staring at the answer and the clue did I realize it's a trick.  Baby show-er, as it it shows babies.  Ha!  Good job, Stu!

Clever clues: "Catch phrase?" is I GOT IT." Spends time on-line?" is DRIES.  "Four characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream" is EMS.  "Passing concern" is ESTATE TAX.

DAM, this puzzle was FREAKING AWESOME.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

My time: 15:53.

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Dan Shoenholz created today's puzzle.  It has five themed answers that include three-letter words that are homophones of letters: JOHN JAY, CHINA SEA, BUSY BEE, TEXAS TEA, and UP TO YOU (why did he break the pattern like that?)  Well, I'll be.  I mean, gee.  But then, why?

The clue "1, for 45°" puzzled me.  It's TANGENT.  That means the opposite side length divided by the adjacent side length in a right triangle.  For 35° it's 0.7.  To remember how to calculate sine, cosine, and tangent, please use this humorously unhelpful mnemonic.

In the never heard of him department, IVO Andrić was a novelist who won the Nobel Prize in 1961.  The 1945 historical novel The Bridge on the Drina is his most famous work.

Johnny MATHIS sang with Deniece Williams on the duet "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late."

Hello, stage APRON.  We have not seen you since October 18.

I was very puzzled by "bluejacket" until the crossfill revealed TAR, which of course is a sailor.  I was stuck in the Civil War.

The K STATE whose mascot is the Wildcats is Kansas.

For "sci-fi weapon" I wanted *ZAP gun but it's the much less retro ION gun.  Ion guns are apparently real?

"Cougar prey" is ELK, whew.  I was hoping/fearing it might be *LAD.

GIL Hodges was a first baseman and manager for the Mets.  It will come as no surprise that I have never heard of him.

LEVIS Stadium is in Santa Clara, California, and home to the San Francisco 49ers.  Yet another of those American ballparks named after faceless corporate behemoths that strip the game of all character.

New Jersey city FT. LEE (a.k.a. the less popular Fort Lee), is --- a genuine surprise to me --- the birthplace of the American film industry.

The YEN was adopted as currency after Japan's Meiji restoration, which put actual power in the hands of the Emperor after a centuries-long Shogunate.

Well, that was pretty good.  I FEEL OK about it.  But I KEN do better!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

My time:  13:49.

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The mischievous mind of Clive Probert made this monstrously unmerciful marvel.  Every clue starts with M and every answer has an M in it.  That's mighty M-pressive.

I have heard, but couldn't come up with, EMMA's last name in EMMA: Woodhouse.

"Member of the ancient Ionian League" is SAMOS.  The Ionian League was a dodecapolis, or group of twelve cities, that banded together after the Meliac War.

EDOM, which means "red," was an ancient region in what is now Israel and Jordan.  In the Bible, it was said to have been founded by Esau.  It was bordered to the north by Judah and Moab, which was later used as a washbasin, while Edom got a sandal thrown on it.

I felt far from sure that TAMA Janowitz is famous enough to be a clue in the New York Times puzzle, let alone her memoir Scream: A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction.  Apparently she is one of the three "brat pack" authors, along with Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney.

For "Mount Olympus is its highest peak" I had a brain blip and put *MONS, as in Olympus Mons.  It's MARS, of course.

The name of Shakespeare's midwife to the fairies eluded me.  It's been many decades since Shakespeare class.  It's MAB, referred to as such in "Romeo and Juliet," though she is also called Queen Mab.

In math, MODULES are... well, take it away, Wiki: they're "fundamental algebraic structures used in abstract algebra. A module over a ring is a generalization of the notion of vector space over a field, wherein the corresponding scalars are the elements of an arbitrary given ring (with identity) and a multiplication (on the left and/or on the right) is defined between elements of the ring and elements of the module."  So are modules sets?  I once read a book about fundamental mathematics that mentioned rings.  I don't know jack about math.

For "modern communications" I wanted to put *MMS as in Multimedia Messaging Service, but it's IMS, as in Instant Messages.

"Microwave brand" is AMANA, which I'd forgotten about since it appeared on October 12.

My, what a clever quiz this was.  It was SUM fun, too!

Clever clues: "Minute length" is ANGSTROM.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My time: 8:14.

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Today's puzzle is by a newsman of whom I have never heard, Harry Smith, and Zhouqin Burnikel.  It has a punny news theme.  "Anchor man?" is POPEYE THE SAILOR.  "Beat reporter?" is ALLEN GINSBERG, ha ha.  "Sound technician" is MARINE BIOLOGIST.  Oh, so funny.  There is no capper.

For "tells to 'Do it!'" I had *DARES; it's URGES.  My answer is more accurate.

Why is an ORB a "space ball" more than any other kind of ball?

The "giant in health plans" wanted here is CIGNA, not *AETNA.

The BLOC clued as Freedom Caucus is a conservative libertarian group that doesn't disclose the names of its members.  They are all almost certainly hypocritical un-Christian shitheads.

I'm vaguely aware of the honey brand SUEBEE.  It has a Native American girl with a feather in her hair as a logo and is owned by the Sioux Honey company.

"ART is the creation of beauty" was said by Ralph Waldo Emerson according to the puzzle.  Or maybe Will Durant?

The Mesabi Range is found in Minnesota and is the largest is a collection of ranges rich in iron ore and known as the IRON Range.

An OBOE is the "instrument with cane blades."  I'm not entirely clear on this, but it seems to have something to do with the making of the instrument, not the playing of it.  They seem to be properly called cane splitters and cane guillotines.  Or a cane gouger?

Clever clue: "Executive producer?" is WHARTON.

AHH, that wasn't too hard.  And I learned something.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

Today's time: 4:52, nearly good enough.

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I couldn't finish Sunday's, or rather, I let it beat me.  It just got too much of a slog.  It was a TKO.  No más, I cried.  Today's is by Alan Arbesfeld.  The theme is four phrases with words ending with -ay followed by it.  I know, it's rather thin, but it's a daily puzzle --- they can't all be gems.  The theme answers are SAY IT AIN'T SO, PAY IT FORWARD, LAY IT ON THICK, and PLAY IT BY EAR.

I was slowed down by putting the more elegant *EMBER for "the glowing part of a fire."  It's meant to be the rather bafflingly mundane FLAME.  Boo.

Thinking football, I put *TEXAS for "Cowboys' home," but it's the song-evoking RANGE.

Enya, that Irish New Age singer beloved by crossword constructors, apparently got nominated for an Oscar for a song from Lord of the Rings: "MAY IT BE."

Here's corrupt shitbag corporate raider Carl ICAHN again!  He was obscure enough for a Saturday puzzle on November 18, but apparently is Monday fodder now.

The NATS of Washington are the Nationals, the D.C. baseball team.

What is an OSAGE orange?  It's a tree actually related to the mulberry that has those weird heavy bumpy green grapefruit-sized fruit.  It is also called hedge apple, bois d'arc, or horse apple.

That's the end!  YAY!  But AVON to do even better.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Today's time: 28:14.

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Mark Diehl tried to stump me with this tough themeless, but I ended up the winner after nearly giving up.  It has some great long fill, like DOUBLE DOG DARE, BARNYARD ANIMALS, ONE THING AT A TIME, and ELLEN DEGENERES.

I had trouble spelling ENNIO MORRICONE (at first I tried *ENRICO MORRICONE), but he's got to be one of the best-known composers in film.

I have not heard of Philadelphia's Allegheny AVE or Aramingo AVE.  Are those really famous streets?

For "Specs spec" I was thinking of the liquor store Specs, but it's spectacles, so they want the TINT of the lenses.

Another conductor clue: Hungarian Georg SOLTI, of whom I have never heard, has thirty-one Grammys.  Solti's Ring cycle has twice been voted the greatest recording ever made, in polls for Gramophone magazine in 1999 and the BBC's Music Magazine in 2012.

Did you know StubHub is owned by EBAY?  Me neither.

The first vice president not to become president was Aaron BURR.  He probably shouldn't have killed Hamilton I guess.

For "ones involved in forensics" the answer DEBATERS bemused me, but also rang a vague bell.  Forensics can also be the art of orating.  The National Speech and Debate Association used to be called the National Forensic League.

Never heard of Sam LOYD, author of the classic Cyclopedia of 5,000 Puzzles.

For "opening at work" I had *SPOT but it's SLOT.  I like spot better.

For "alphabetical" I had *IN ORDER but it's the same-length ORDERED.  Yet another vague trick by Diehl; this puzzle had several of those.

I misread "bubblehead" as "bobblehead" and put *DOLL; when I realized my mistake, I put *DOPE.  But it's DODO.

The GRACE CUP is a term and tradition I am not familiar with.  I guess that's because I'm an ungodly apostate.  "Grace cups were passed round when a traditional grace (a prayer of thanksgiving) was said to give thanks for the food eaten," per Wiki.

I am the single-most clueless American male about sports, an ongoing series: SAL BANDO, a three-time World Series champ, I could never have named in a million years.  Actually I had the baffling *SAP BANDO at first.  I knew that didn't look right.

I know JOAN MIRO (though I stupidly had *JUAN MIRO at first), but I don't know Triptych Bleu I, II, III.  Sort of... blobby and similar, isn't it?

I didn't know Mama Cass' real last name.  She was born Ellen Naomi COHEN.

I guessed Haiphong holiday was TET from how it sounds, but never heard of Vietnam's third largest city and major economic engine.  Hey, I'm an American!  If it isn't in North America, it's not worth knowing!  [guns firing, eagle screams]

Clever clues: "not let" is UNRENTED.  "Lush" is DIPSOMANIAC; I kept thinking, vivid something?  "Something read with a scroll?" is EMAIL.

Whew!  At first I wasn't sure I'd even put a DINT in this puzzle, and I'd be ENABLE to finish.  But I made it!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

Today's time: 13:52.

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A tough-but-fair themeless from Lily Silverstein.

I don't know if LOOMED OVER implies that one's overbearing presence is "invisible."  Someone's spirit or reputation can loom over the proceedings,so it's generally figurative, but just as often the loomer is physically present, so...

Likewise I don't care for the indefinite and jocular ZILLIONAIRES in a clue that doesn't indicate any exaggeration.  "Tiny top percent of one-percenters" is a real thing; a zillion is not.

Did you know that ORION'S BELT is also known as the Three Kings?  Me neither.  Christians are always trying to usurp other deities' traditions.  They are also sometimes called the Three Sisters or the Three Marys.  Make up your mind, Christians!

I've heard of animator William HANNA, of course, but I didn't know his name was William.  His partners' name is Joseph Barbera.  Bill and Joe, just a couple of artists who created an empire.

For Justin Trudeau's party I had *LAB but it's LIB.

"Viola staff starter" is ALTO CLEF.  Apparently that's the most commonly used clef in viola music.  I don't know why.  Violas play in C, I guess?  I don't know anything about the playing of music.

ZABAR'S is a famed Manhattan deli that I've never heard of, and I grew up in New York.  I saw that "Katz's" didn't fit and was stymied.

Not being a beer drinker, I had never heard of PERONI, an Italian beer.  Have a Peroni with your tortoni!

I guessed that B-36 nickname PEACEMAKER from the "ironically" part of the clue.

The prefix PETA apparently means multiplication by 1015, or one quadrillion. 

Comedy person Wyatt CENAC is someone I couldn't name, but I recognize his face.

David ORTIZ, nicknamed "Big Papi," was a Dominican designated hitter for the Rex Sox.  he was the MVP of the 2013 World Series.

For "one taking a bow at a concert?" I had *VIOLA until I saw the clue about the viola above, and figured there wouldn't be a mention of an answer in the clues.  It's CELLO.

For "frozen dew" I held on to *RIME but eventually realized it had to be HOAR.

For "shortly" I had *IN A TRICE but it's the less-accurate IN A WHILE.

Clever clues: "One in a story with an apple" for both EVE and TELL.


Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: May 18, 2018

My time: 19:01 , just shy of average. -- I was really walloped by this rather difficult themeless by Ryan McCarty.  It's a very nice...