Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 31, 2018

My time: 8:18.

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Josh Radnor and Jeff Chen put their minds together to give us a PREMEDITATED theme.  Punnily enough, they added OM (ॐ) to the beginning of several phrases and then clued them literally.  Pre-meditation, get it??

So add om to "aha moments" and get "some wonderful times in Nebraska," or OMAHA MOMENTS.  "Makes an unabridged humor book?" is OMITS NO JOKE.  "Portentous fashion magazine?" is OMEN VOGUE.  And "good name for politico Martin's jazz band?" is O'MALLEY CATS.

Before I understood the "meditated"/"om" joke, I thought these were just portmanteaus, and I tripped myself up on the clue "small version of a popular cookie."  Believing it to be one of the themed answers, I put *JUNIOREO, as a blend of Junior Mint and Oreo.  The crossfill at the J was "juice brand with a distinctive bottle," so I thought the word ending with-OJ would work.  But actually, the small cookie is MINI OREO, and the crossfill is POM, the pomegranate juice with those bulbous bottles.

For "extraction target" I kept thinking of a *VIP in a bad spot needing paramilitary rescue, but it's actually the extraction of ORE.  This is verbatim what I wrote on December 14, 2017, the last time this happened.

Len CARIOU is an actor who has been in Thirteen Days, Spotlight, and "Blue Bloods."  Crossword creators love little-known character actors.

"Important stat for QBs" is TD PASSES.  I didn't think of that.

Gotta admire Radnor and Chen for fitting in SNOOP LION.

I got fooled by "court officials whose jobs have now been replaced by technology."  I kept thinking of legal courts.  But it's about tennis courts.  We no longer use NET JUDGES.  Read this quaint article about the transition, from 1996.

If I knew even the rudiments of Spanish, I'd have known that SER is the infinitive of "to be."

Never heard of ERMA Franklin, Aretha's older sister.  She originally recorded "Piece of My Heart," made famous, of course, by Janis Joplin.

Clever clues: "Women rush to get in it" is SORORITY.  "Extremely fancy?" is COVET.  "It has no point" is INTEGER.  "Symbol for the resistance?" is OMEGA.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 30, 2018

My time: 9:04.

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Emily Carroll takes being HOUSEBROKEN literally in this puzzle.  Running across a pair of rows are circled letters, some on one row and the rest above, which spell out a type of house --- "broken" up by being on different rows.  So we have A-F/RAME, then RAN/CH, DUP/LEX, and finally CHAL/ET.  Fun!

The Sun Devils are the mascot for ASU, Arizona State University.  Sparky the Sun Devil!  He has a pitchfork.

Llwynywermod is, as is obvious from the spelling, WELSH.  It's the residence of the Prince of Wales, located in Wales.  Clarence House is the more famous royal residence, in London.  There are also residences in Scotland and Gloucestershire.

I've never heard the term MOW for the part of a barn where hay is stored.  It's always in the full term, hay mow. Interestingly, it rhymes with cow, not low.  Haymow, you're an all star, get your hay on, get baled!

THETA is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, coming before iota.  In uppercase it is written Θ or ϴ, and in lowercase θ.

APPLETON, Wisconsin, is a town founded in 1835 that has a population of about 75,000.   It's home to Lawrence University, a liberal arts college founded in 1847.

And it's NAS!  Again!  Crossword creators' favorite rapper.  This time for the #1 album Hip Hop Is Dead, released 2006.

I almost knew KALAMATA, the "large Greek olive," but wasn't quite sure of the spelling.  It is named for the city in the south Peloponnese.

Did you know that the NY Y[ankees] are the Red Sox archrivals?  I didn't.

Of the two ETTAS mentioned in the puzzle, I've heard of Etta James, "the Matriarch of R&B," but not Etta Jones, a sadly little-known jazz singer.

LOMA Linda, California, is a city in southern California known mostly for its population of Seventh Day Adventists, apparently.

William T. SHERMAN may not have originated the phrase "WAR is hell," but he popularized it.  The entire quote is worth memorizing, actually.

Vientiane is the capital of LAOS.  It is located on the northwest border with Thailand, on the Mekong River.  Vientiane sounds like windy, Laos sounds like loss, it was lost in the wind. 

Apparently Major League Baseball's PENNANT RACE happens around September.

What was once THRACE is an ancient region now split between Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey, bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north and the Black Sea to the east.  An interesting fact is that this region was also once known as Europe.

NOB Hill is an affluent neighborhood in San Francisco.  Best fact: it abuts another neighborhood known as the Tenderloin, a not-so-affluent neighborhood, and this area is sometimes referred to as Tendernob.

Whew.   That was very tough for a Tuesday.  Time for a WREST.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 29, 2018

My time: 4:33, so close to the record I can see it!

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Lynn Lempel shows us how to DOWNSIZE.  Four Down clues have answers that have sizes in them, smallest to largest as they run west: "Crazy to run into you here!" is SMALL WORLD.  "Newspapers or magazines" is PRINT MEDIUM.  "Contest for an areawide seat" is AT-LARGE RACE (as opposed to electoral district voting).  And finally, "nonsense" is MUMBO-JUMBO.

I had a little bit of difficulty spelling REDDI-WIP.  Ugh.  Ugh on the product and ugh on the spelling.

The fill that probably cost me my Monday record is ET ALII, the masculine plural of "and others."  I, of course, put *ET ALIA, the neuter plural that is much more commonly used. 

Fun vague clue: "the P of PRNDL" refers to car gears.  PARK!

Here's GLEN Campbell's song "Galveston."  It was written by Jimmy Webb, like some other Campbell hits.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a plastic compound which is generally deemed unsafe in use for food packaging.

I didn't know OPELS ("Wir leben Autos") had a lightning bolt logo.

SAL ("Erie Canal mule of song) is such a habitual crossword denizen that it's old hat to me now.

Clever clue: "Gave a hand" is DEALT.  

I zoomed through this!  I wish I'd gone faster.  ZAP!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 28, 2018

Today's time: 22:12, not bad!

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Priscilla Clark and Jeff Chen rewrote some film scripts to give us "plot twists."  Several entries are movie titles, the last letter of which has been changed to make a new plot.  For example, "retired pool shark returns... to win French impressionist painting!" is THE COLOR OF MONET.  "Guy makes a new best friend... who turns out to be a communist!" is I LOVE YOU, MAO.  "Big monster emerges... with a new line of snack crackers!" is SWAMP THINS.  And "West Coast officers track wisecracking detective... to a bovine!" is BEVERLY HILLS COW.  The funniest one is THE BIG CHILI.

As a capper, the changed final letters, from top clue to bottom, spell out "plot twist."  What a shocker!

AVOCETS are colorful North American wading birds.

I did not know that POP is called "tonic" in Boston.  Don't they speak English over there?  Of course, the Internet, television, and monolithic corporate branding combine to snuff out these regionalisms over time.

"One side of college football's Big Game" is CAL, as in the University of California.  Apparently, the Big Game is a rivalry game played by the University of California, Berkeley's California Golden Bears and Stanford's Cardinals.  It began in 1892.  And here I thought the Big Game was Army-Navy.  No, but that rivalry started in 1890.

Old-timey card players and other cool cats call ACES, especially pocket aces, "bullets."

"Norman!  Listen! Can you hear the LOONs calling?  They're welcoming us back to On Golden Pond!"

"Force on earth" is O-NEG.  Wait, no, that's a blood type!  It's actually ONE-G, as in gravity.  One g is the acceleration due to gravity at the Earth's surface and is the standard unit of gravity.

I didn't really understand why "two plus two equaling five" is an example of SYNERGY.  But I guess its literal definition is the interaction of two or more agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

EVIE Sands is a singer who had some success in the 1960s and '70s.  I don't think I've ever heard of her.  One of her minor hits was "Any Way That You Want Me."

USO appears in crosswords a lot but I didn't know their motto was "Until every one comes home."  Well, that'll be never, then.

I've never heard of the cable channel ION, but their tagline is "Positively Entertaining," ha ha!  Its programming schedule seems to consist entirely of syndicated crime procedurals.

SKIL is a brand of tools, mostly saws and drills and sanders and grinders and like that.

Clever clues: "something coming off the shelf?" is BERG.  "Man, for one" is ISLE.  "Casualty of a crash?" is DATA LOSS.  "Bussing on a bus" is PDA. "Gift on a string" is a new way to prompt LEI.  "Mix and match?" is SPEED DATE.  "Org. that's found by accident?" is OSHA.  "Backtalk?" is ECHO.  "Sworn statement" is I DO.

Well, this was a fun puzzle, and that's NO LIE.  It had A FEW rough patches, but nothing to DRED.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 27, 2018

My time: 17:09, an excellent time for me!

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A nice themeless by Mark Diehl.  It has a lot of interesting fill, like MARIE CURIE, BEER GUT, TRASHMOUTH, BLOODBORNE, STEADY DIET, TEAM EVENTS, ERRATA PAGE, ZYNGA, and more.

HEME is the red pigment in blood.  It's responsible for the red color in hemoglobin.

I only just recently heard about a Caesar cocktail; I read about it in a Mexican restaurant.  Sometimes it's called a Bloody Caesar.  It has CLAM JUICE!  Ick.

THINK YOUNG is clued as "be open-minded, maybe?"  So... so, so, what, exactly?  Being young is equal to being open minded, so old people are inherently close-minded?  [starts drafting angry letter to Mark Diehl on 1917 Corona typewriter]

New word to me: "trigger-to-cylinder connection" is PAWL.  In general use, it's a bolt that falls into notches in a mechanism to ensure movement in only one direction.

And another new word: POMACE, the pulpy residue from cider making.

"Hello, MARY LOU" was a hit for Ricky Nelson in 1961, but it was written by Gene Pitney.

Isfahan is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran.  It's famous for its Islamic architecture.  It served as the capital of Persia in the past, but now his home to nearly four million IRANIANs.

Likewise, Thimphu is the capital of Bhutan.  It is home to 104,00 BHUTANI people.  I would memorize all 195 world capitals, if I were any kind of crossword doing guy.

Megan BOONE is an actress best known for "The Blacklist."  I saw a couple of episodes.  It was okay.  It's no "Breaking Bad."

"He hit a homer!  Folks, he hit the laces right off that ball!  He's rounding the bases now!  What a DINGER!  What a humdinger!"

For "green-skinned fruit" I had *APPLE for a long time, which slowed me up!  It's ANJOU.

For "tied up, in he operating room" I had *SUTURED for a long time, which also caused me trouble.  It's LIGATED.

Clever clues: "Side with?" is ABUT. "Space race?" is ALIENS.  "Kept close to one's chest?" is HUGGED.  "Bad way to get to work" is LATE.  "Something you may lay down or break" is THE LAW.

This was a fast time, but EWE can bet I can do it faster... someday.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 26, 2018

Today's time: 9:24, blowing away the previous record!

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Caleb Madison made this unthemed puzzle, which has a lot of interesting and unusual fill: MAKES A U-TURN, EVER SINCE, WORD VOMIT, WIKILEAKS, RARE COINS, KARATE KID, ON A DOWNER ("how buzzkills end things"), and ABERRANCE, among others.

I just got lucky today; I was on the same wavelength as the clues somehow.  The vagueness vanished, and I saw with clarity the single meaning needed out of the possible meanings.

TORTA appeared January 7 as an Italian dessert; this time it's "Mexican sandwich."  Its typical iteration is a meat, avocado spread, and beans on a crusty roll.

The song "Don't Matter" was a #1 hit in 20017 for AKON.  I've barely heard the name, but he appears to have multiple award nominations and sales records.

Did you know the NY RANGERS were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup, in 1928?  Me neither.  And it only took ten years!

TED Mosby is the character in "How I Met Your Mother" who is telling the story of how he met the kids' mother.  Suit up!  ...I haven't watched this show.

Lake Hamana, in Japan, is a source of lots of local seafood, including bass, oysters, and eels, caught by the EELERS.

I am the single-most clueless American male about sports, an ongoing series: Joe TORRE is a giant in baseball, having been a player, manager, commentator and manager.  He has the fifth-most wins as manager, and had over 2,000 hits as a player.  He wrote a 2009 memoir called The Yankee Years.

The world's first pizzeria is widely believed to be Antica Pizzeria Port-Alba, located in NAPLES.  It was opened in 1830.

Kamehameha Day, celebrated by HAWAIIANS, of course, honors King Kamehameha the Great, who first united the Hawaiian isles.  It occurs on June 11, but celebrations are held in the days before and after.

I didn't understand why SRS had "300 and 400 classes," but it's course numbering.  Frosh get the dreaded 101 classes and so on up.

Did you know Bulgarian rulers called themselves TSARS (emperors) as well?  Yes, Simeon I and Simeon II did that.  Around 913, Simeon assumed the title of tsar and was recognized as such  by Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos, having prior to that been styled Prince (Knyaz).  Simeon II, aka Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, ruled as tsar a thousand years later.

Lots of clever clues today as well: "Building block makeup" is CINDER.  "Diner order that gets filled?" is OMELET (I thought it might pertain to coffee or tea).  "Niche form of architecture?" is APSE.  "Sharp-looking footwear?" is STILETTOS.  "Sticking points" is PRONGS.  "Act without originality" is COVER BAND.  "Sloppy planting job?" is WET KISS.  "Something that people wish you would take when you leave" is CARE.

Well, gotta SPLIT.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 25, 2018

Today's time: 13:54, not bad at all.

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Alex Eaton-Salners constructed a puzzle based around a "yachter's itinerary," ISLAND HOPPING.  This means that in the themed answers, you must "hop over" the island name found in the answer to see the "real" answer to the given clue.

For example, "smelled" is SCUBA TANK and if you eliminate the Cuba you get its real definition, "stank."  "Poetry" is "verse" wrapped around Bali: VERBALISE.  "Hayloft item" is BALTIMORE, or "bale."  And of course, "they're not pros" is CONCRETES.

(This all seemed very familiar.  It turns out that Chuck Deodene did a similar puzzle on October 3, 2017, and even used the same Timor/Baltimorean wordplay.)

"Group of football blockers" is O-LINE, which stands for offensive line.

Here's John Lennon and Yoko ONO's song of off the 1972 album Some Time in New York City, "We're All Water."  Not too bad at all, except when she makes those weird animal shrieks.

PHI is the 21st letter of the Greek alphabet, of which there are 24 letters.  Still, "#21 of 24" is fairly abstruse for a clue.  Phi is also the symbol for the Golden Ratio.

Not that I'll ever be able to master it, or probably ever have a need for it, but here's a clove hitch KNOT.  After all, as the site says so well, "Better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it."

The rapper NAS comes up a lot in crossword puzzles.  I don't even know the album Illmatic, but I saw three squares and just put it right in.

I've never heard of LES Échos, a French economic and stock information daily paper.

I feel like RICOLA cough drops, made by an herbal lozenge company from Switzerland, taste too medicinal.  I guess that's ironic.

Robert Schumann was a German composer who wrote four symphonies and many Lieder.  I'm not sure he's widely known for his ETUDES.  Wikipedia says, however, "In 1837 Schumann published his Symphonic Studies, a complex set of étude-like variations which demanded a finished piano technique."

I did not know that L.A. also had a neighborhood called NOHO, but of course it's a pet name for North Hollywood, not North of Houston.

Also is Los Angeles: the OTIS College of Art and Design.  Edith Head graduated from there, maybe.

I've heard of one of the two KEVINS: Durant, but not Love.  He's a 6'10" power forward.  Yikes!

Clever clues: "some metal bands?" is ORE.  "Lush" is WINO.  "Part of España" is TILDE.  "Person with an inverted morality" is EVIL TWIN.  "Things with entrances and exits" is SCRIPTS.  "Ball boy?" is DESI.

Well, gee, IDA moved faster if I'd known I was doing so well.  OH SNAP!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 24, 2018

My time: 12:17, just about average.

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This puzzle, created by Kathy Weinberg, is another one with a theme that has no reason to be.  No a-ha moment, no capper.  It's just adding "at" to the ends of phrases and then cluing them literally.

Starting with "Mammoth Cave," the final themed answer becomes MAMMOTH CAVEAT, clued as "big 'but'?"  The second themed answer is ESTATE CARAT ("small diamond handed down to an heir?").  This is a play on estate car, which is the British term for station wagon.  "Fight between two lovers" is the funniest one: HONEY COMBAT.  And then there's "futuristic Volkwagen?" which is FORWARD PASSAT.

So, nice wordplay, but no capper.  Nothing to indicate why this theme, why now.  I enjoy themes more when there's an a-ha clue that ties it all together.

For "BBC sci-fi series, informally" I put DR. WHO.  I don't know why it says "informally."  Isn't that the title of the show?

"Member of a crossword zoo?" EMU.  Why "crossword"?

Totally new to me department: AXIL, the angle between a branch or leaf and the stem from which it originates.  Boy, there really is a word for anything.

Yet another definition of ACRE.  Here, it's the "amount of land a pair of oxen could plow in a day, historically."

Why does "thank you very much" in Danish look like Latin cognates for "eat this?"

EVIE Tornquist, also just known by her first name, is a Christian singer of Norwegian descent who had hits in the 1970s and '80s.  She was nominated for a Gospel Grammy three times.

An ASCOT is a kind of short tie with a special way of tying.  The four-in-hand is the typical style of tying a regular tie that everyone uses.

RONA Jaffe, novelist who wrote Mazes And Monsters, last appeared January 3.  I had the idea it was much longer ago.

Clever clues: "Fashion line?" is HEM.  "Spot from a pot" is TEA.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 23, 2018

Today's time: 5:36, a new record!!

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Jim Holher's puzzle has a theme that is really only apparent after the puzzle is completed, so it doesn't help with the solving.  Playing off the word SPREAD, six rows have circled letters that spell out words that come before that word.  They are, from north to south: W/I/N/G, C/HE/ES/E, MA/GAZ/I/NE, MI/D/DLE/AGE (I resemble that remark), P/O/I/N/T, and B/E/D.

"Counterparts of compressions," in physics" is TENSIONS. The non-existent plural is irritating.

"Fire and fury" for RAGE is timely and amusing.  Not only are they synonyms, one causes the other.

New to me: LOD, city in Israel.  Inhabited for nearly seven thousand years, it is southeast of Tel Aviv.  It is a hub of El Al because Ben Gurion Airport is located on its outskirts.

The interstate I-10 is the southernmost cross-country interstate in the US.  It starts in Santa Monica, California, though New Mexico and Texas, then Louisiana and Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida.  Phoenix, El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, Mobile, and New Orleans are all on its route.  What a famous road!

Richard GERE, an actor I once took a vow never to see on screen again, stars in the 2002 thriller Unfaithful.  I don't think I need to see that.

"Coins of ancient Athens" are OBOLI, the plural of obolus, the original term for the obol, which I was aware of.  Interesting fact: they were originally rod shaped.  Six made a handful, or drachma.

An ITER is a passage or canal in anatomy.  There are some in the tympanic cavity, for example.

It's Pac-12 teams the UTES again.

Clever clue: "It doesn't get returned" is ACE.

Wow!  I'm so impressed I was able to do a Tuesday in five and a half minutes ORZO.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 22, 2018

Today's time: 5:57.

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An impressive and fun theme by Paolo Pasco that shows the effects of EROSION on words.  In the themed phrases, the final word loses one letter from alternating ends with each appearance, so that what was stone becomes only an OLa La Land actress EMMA STONE starts the series, which is followed by QUARTER TONE (losing the starting "s"), METRIC TON (losing the final "e"), I MEAN COME ON (losing the starting "t"), and finally STANDING O.

A perfect Monday theme.  Not too hard, but unexpected, with that "a-ha" moment that makes the final pieces fall into place.  Some good unusual fill, too, like FLOOR IT, TAN LINE, X-ACTO, and OBLASTS.

Iranian currency is RIAL.  There are a lot of currencies that have  a similar name.

I think crossword constructors must get paid extra for putting OLE in their puzzles.

I like OH FUN for "sounds exciting..."  They both mean the same thing when said in an exaggerated, sarcastic voice.

"Times past noon, informally" is AFTS, which is ridiculous.  First of all, no one says, "yeah, I had a really relaxing aft."  And they certainly don't pluralize it.  Try saying "afts."  No one  says that.

For "group of eight" I confidently put *OCTET but it's OCTAD.

LILA Bell Wallace was the co-founder of "Reader's Digest" with her husband, DeWitt Wallace, in 1922.

"Put down the CHALUPA."  Remember that Taco Bell ad?  It's a deep-fried dough shaped kind of like the boat of the same name.

MAMBO appears for the first time since September 22, 2017, when I mistakenly put *MAMBA.  I didn't do that this time.

Cluing ERNIE as "character long rumored to be Bert's lover" is sure to earn a rebuking note from Sesame Street.

And that's it.  OMAN, I should have done this in a TRICE.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 21, 2018

Today's time: 29:37, less than average by just a bit.

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Today's puzzle has a theme that's not immediately clear, or at least it wasn't to me.  Constructed by Victor Barocas and Andy Kravis, it has some linked entries.  For example, 23 Across is PLAY FOR TIME.  Connected to it is 95 Across, "play of Shakespeare (remember 23 Across)," and that's ELIZABETHAN ERA.  Because you swap out the "play" in the later clue for the word "time" so it reads "time for Shakespeare."

Then we have 33 Across, NOT SAFE FOR WORK.  Connected to it is 111 Across is "not safe at home (remember 33 Across)," and that's TELECOMMUTE.  Because you swap out the "not safe" in the later clue for "work" so it reads "work at home."

Last example: CRY FOR HELP is the answer referred to in "seasonal cry (remember 43 Across)."  Swap one word for another and you get "seasonal help."  That's TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE.

I'll grant you that this little trick takes brains to execute.  But it's a little laborious for wordplay, and for me there was no a-ha moment.

ALOP ("off-kilter") is not a word that I'm familiar with.

The seat of Lewis and Clark County, in Montana, is also that's state's capital, HELENA.

For "cosmic bursts" I had *NOVAE until I realized that gave us *TESLAE on the crossfill, which I think would be a bit much for the doughtiest classicist.

I was a little puzzled by "recipe that entails a lot of shaking" for EARTHQUAKE, but it turns out there is such a thing as earthquake cake.

Beethoven's PIANO TRIO, Op. 97, is known as the Archduke Trio, because it was dedicated to Archduke Rudolph of Austria, the youngest of twelve children of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor.  Beethoven dedicated fourteen works to the Archduke.

The TOTE BOARD at a racetrack is a big board that displays the odds or payouts of a horse.

I'm hopeless at geography. The EDO River, which I've never heard of, is in Japan's Kantō region.  It forms the border between Tokyo, Chiba, and Saitama prefectures.

"Ancient land where the Olympics began" is ELIS.  It was an ancient city-state on the Peloponnese, south of Achaea.  Olympia was located there, a sanctuary that housed a Temple of Zeus, among other things.

I've heard that idiotic "watch me NAE NAE" hundreds of times from kids, but I didn't connect it with "hip-hop dance move."  Ugh.  Apparently it was begun by a rap group called We Are Toonz, as a sort of homage to Martin Lawrence's cross-dressing character on his show "Martin."

I knew that the Castro was one of many San Francisco GAYBORHOODS, but I didn't know that Chelsea is also known for its gay population.  Maybe that's changing.  Good fill, anyway.

SEAN YOUNG starred in Blade Runner as Rachael, the Tyrell corporation secretary who turned out to be not human.

ADELE has a song called "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)," apparently.

Remember EDY, from October 4, 2017?  It's back, as a clue: "Edy's onetime ice cream partner" is DREYER.

I filled in ORD pretty quickly, thanks to its appearance on January 17.

And EMI shows up again, as "old Parlophone parent," last seen November 28, 2017.

Lots of clever clues: "Enjoy some rays?" is SCUBA, especially paired with the later "enjoys some rays" (BASKS).  "It's said to cause a smile" is CHEESE.  "Campus grp. that organizes marches" is ROTC.  "Leader in a red suit" is ACE OF HEARTS.  "Goofy drawing?" is CEL.  "Holding charge" is RANSOM.  "Lose one's shadow, say" is SHAVE.

Well RAH and OLE!  I got through this.  It was enjoyable but tough.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 20, 2018

My time: 26:40, which is less than average but hardly great.

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I couldn't finish Friday's puzzle.  I got about 80% through but hit a wall.

Alex Vratsanos created today's round puzzle with an almost-X in the center (it kind of looks like a sand dollar), which I thought might have some kind of X in the middle theme but no, it's themeless.

This puzzle has a lot of very long and seldom-seen fill: BOOPADOOP, SEND A LETTER, BIG TICKET ITEM ("one taking a lot of credit, maybe?"), MAJORITY RULES, HOME THEATER, BOSTON CREAM, RELEASE WAIVER, YES MASTER, MARIONETTES, and TEXAS-SIZE.  It's not flashy, but making that fill work is admirably clever by itself.

For "spot for Spot" I put *RUG but it's LAP.

"Pomeriggio follower" is SERAPomeriggio is afternoon in Italian, and sera is evening.  That befuddled me, because I don't parliano the Italio.

Tony ANSELMO has been the voice of Donald Duck since 1985.  He followed Clarence Nash, who personally trained him in the nuances of the voice.

Continuing the Italian theme, Pasquale AMATO was an Italian baritone who sang at the Metropolitan Opera from 1908 to 1921. 

"Untouched" is an oblique clue for in SITU.  In medicine, in situ means in its normal place, or confined to a place, but there is a consequent meaning of being without invasion from other tissues.

"Its player may have a yen for gambling" indicates we're looking for a Japanese gambling game.  I got the answer, PACHINKO, by crossfill; I haven't heard of it.  It's a machine somewhat like vertical pinball, with steel balls falling down among pins to land into a hoped-for cup at the bottom.

Being of college age in the '90s, I have heard of SISTER SOULJAH, but I wouldn't have a clue that her real name is Lisa Williamson.

PELLA is a company that makes high-end windows and patio doors.  Never heard of it.

BMI is one of the three giant song royalty-collecting agencies, along with ASCAP and its European cousin SESAC.

For "turn on the ice," I had *AXEL but it's LUTZ.

Clever clues: "Sly remarks" is YOS, ha!  "Things that cover all the bases" is ALKALIS.  "Maker of thousands of cars annually" is OTIS.  "Files away?' is DELETES.  "Changers of locks" is HAIR DYES.  "Gray head?" is LEE.

This puzzle didn't have a lot of new stuff to me, as this short entry shows, but figuring out those long, unusual answers took a while!  Challenging but not an annoying slog.  I liked it!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 18, 2018

My time: 11:59, which I had no idea was so close to today's record.  I should have hurried more.

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Today, Ryan McCarty and Alan Southworth say NO WAY to the word "way."  They've taken the "way" out of several phrases and clued them literally.  "Rooftop heist," for example, is HIGH[way] ROBBERY.  "Handle engineer duties" is RUN A[way] TRAIN.  "Sandwich shops?" is SUB[way] STATIONS.  Clever!

I have not read The Sun Also Rises, so I needed crossfill to figure out the character name Lady BRETT Ashley, love of Jake Barnes.

Apparently the MTA uses an eTix app.  Sometimes the New York Times crossword puzzle is too Nuyorcian.

The NHL team the Carolina Hurricanes, based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, used to be called the Hartford (Connecticut) WHALERS.  But before that they were in Boston and then the New England Whalers.  This seems to me a case of the ship of Theseus.  Are they really the same team?  Every single part has been replaced at least once --- players, location, name, and logo.

"Della or Picabo" is ONE [Way] STREET.  Della Street is Perry Mason's secretary, portrayed by Barbara Hale in the TV series, for which she won an Emmy.

SVEN is the name of a reindeer character in Frozen, which I have never seen.

A COHIBA is a premium cigar from Cuba.  They do say it was Fidel Castro's favorite.  It's no el ropo!

For "fish at a Hawaiian barbecue" I had *KOI but that's not it.  It's ONO.  That's the Hawaiian term, meaning "good to eat."  It's commonly known as wahoo.  Wahoo!

Here's SLR, yet again, but it just doesn't stick.  It means a Single Lens Reflex camera.

ASHE, the stadium in Queens, appeared October 11, 2017.  I made the same *SHEA mistake as I did back then, but recovered more quickly, remembering it.

"Major group HQ'd in Fairfax, Va." is NRA, and it appeared on September 28, 2017.  If you're a Congressman and vote for even the slightest step toward rational gun regulation, they'll send a fair number of Faxes to your office?

Clever clues: "Org. that discourages traveling" is NBA.  "Diamond club" is BAT.  "Openings at a day spa?" is PORES.

RIGHTO, then. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 17, 2018

My time: 15:12, longer than the average Wednesday.

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Today, Jules P. Markey gives us themed Downs.  "Warm winter coat contents" is DOWN FEATHERS, which is a clue that the themed answers have birds in them.  WAYNE GRETZKY, for example, hides "egret."  Other themed answers include BRAVE NEW WORLD and TELL ME ANOTHER ONE.

The ACELA Express is a high-speed Amtrak train from Boston to Washington DC, with stops in New York and Philadelphia.  It's the fastest train in the Americas, reaching 150 mph and completing the trip in under seven hours.

Remember Zeno of Elea, from January 7?  "Site of Zeno's teaching" doesn't refer to him.  It refers to Zeno of Citium, a Stoic philosopher.  Being a stoic and acetic, he taught from doorways, or STOA.

What is NOVA lox, anyway?  It's cold-smoked salmon from Nova Scotia.  Cf. lox and gravlax.

For "____ Mae (bond)" I put *FANNIE but it's GINNIE.  That's GNMA, or Government National Mortgage Association.  Ginnie Mae, part of HUD, exists to help finance affordable housing.  Ginnie is part of the government; Fannie Mae is not.

The website EHOW appeared yesterday.

I didn't know ORZO is used in soups and salads.

One of the themed answers describes baseball.  A GAME OF INCHES.  It contains the word "finch." Why is it called that?   And who called it that first?

A word I've never heard in my life: ARIOSE.  It doesn't look like it means what it means.  It means melodic, as opposed to recitative.  To me, it looks like it describes a physique.

ORD is the symbol for Chicago's O'HARE International Airport.  We recently learned that Atlanta has the world's busiest airport, but O'Hare has taken the title for a few years.

Director AVA DuVernay appeared November 29, 2017.

Clever clues: "Maker's mark?" is APOSTROPHE. "Unlikeliest to be bought" is LAMEST; I like the way it plays with the word bought to mean "believed." 

This was slow going.  I will TRI to do better next time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 16, 2018

My time: 8:28.

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David Steinberg pays tribute to FOUR LETTER WORDS by printing six of them in the New York Times crossword puzzle!  Ha ha, not actual vulgarities, but words literally made out of only four letters each: SASSAFRAS, SENESCENCE, LOLLIPOP, NONSENSE, TATTLETALE, and RECHERCHÉ.

"Pharmaceutical giant that makes Valium" is ROCHE.  It was founded in Switzerland and is the third-largest pharma company in the world.  They've also paid over half a billion dollars in fines for price fixing, the greedy bastards, and indirectly caused the death of a whistleblower's wife.

Casey STENGEL, right fielder and manager of the Yankees, I have heard of.  However, I didn't know his nickname was "The Old Perfessor," Pogoesque spelling and all --- which is fantastic.   Apparently he was a garrulous story teller.

OTTO I, Holy Roman Emperor 962-973, is best known for reducing the power of the dukes in the kingdom and for beating back the Magyars, ending the threat of Hungarian invasion.  He also conquered Italy and arts flourished under his reign.  What a great guy!

ASCOT is a British racecourse in Berkshire, south of Windsor.  One of its best known races is the Gold Cup.  The most prestigious race is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, run in July.

We've heard of tiddlywinks, but did we know that the "winks" of the name are flat DISCS that are flipped into the goal pot?  Also that one strategy in tiddlywinks is "squopping," which is shooting your winks on top of your opponents' winks to block them?  No, we didn't, probably.

Less familiar to me was PESETA, the currency of Spain from 1869 to 2002.  Some of them were minted in a Spanish flower shape.

TETRIS was influenced by pentominoes, which we in the education biz know.  But I also learned that each pentomino fills the Conway criterion, which means it can tile a plane with no overlaps.

Being no frat bro, I needed crossfill to get that Hs in fraternity names are ETAS.  Interestingly, in Ancient Greek, eta represented a /h/ sound, but by the time of classical Greek it had morphed into an /ē/ sound.  Capital eta is written as H, but lower case eta looks more like a lowercase n with one long leg.

And that's it.  FINITO.  ADIOS.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 15, 2018

My time: 5:14, so very close!

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Agnes Davidson and Zhouqin Burnikel united to bring us this puzzle celebrating the great Martin Luther King Jr.  Playing off of FREE AT LAST, the final words of the famous "I Have a Dream" speech, they give us four more phrases in which the last word is a synonym of "free."  NEW RELEASE, TAX EXEMPT, THE COAST IS CLEAR, and BEG PARDON are the themed answers.

In golf, someone who EAGLES scores two under par.  A birdie is one stroke under par.  An albatross is three under par. There are no other bird names; scores under that are referred to as double bogeys as so on.  But I have some suggestions for bigger or better birds.  Four under par? Osprey.  Five under par?  Condor.  Six under par?  Phoenix.  These are good ideas!

For "praise highly" I wrongly put *EXULT when it's obviously EXALT, and that cost me precious time.

Did you know PRELL was green shampoo?  Me neither.

The French president's palace is the ELYSEE.  Built in 1722, it was occupied by royal mistresses and rich people, until 1848 when it was first used as the residence of the President of the Republic.

MSU, Michigan State University (go Spartans!), is located in East Lansing.

STP is clued today as "big advertiser in auto races."  It appeared on November 6, 2017, as "fuel additive brand."

"Sunoco competitor" CITGO was last seen by me way back on September 4, 2017.

"Alternatives to Nikes" is Oregon brand AVIAS, which came up on September 24, 2017.

Clever clue: "Like food from a West African drive-through?" is TO GO, ha ha.

This was pretty easy, so it both GALLS and IRKS me that I didn't make a new record this Monday.  Ah, well.   That's life.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 14, 2018

My time: 32:16.

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Joe Fagliano brings us a Sunday puzzle that is so intricate that I can't imagine how he managed to put it all together.  Playing off the phrase OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, he creates six rows that hide the name of a Supreme Court justice but "obstruct" (break up) the names with black squares.  The themed answers are: DANTONI / NSC / ALIASES, WANNABE / FORT / ASIATIC, THE PEARL / WAR / RENTS TO, "TO HELEN" / AKA / GANYMEDE, ANSONIA / SOTO / MAYORAL, and HOP-STEP / HEN / BREYER'S.

I wonder which Justice's name came to him as a series of other words first?  I'm guessing Sonia Sotomayor.

Okay, let's get started glossing this monstrosity.

Mike D'ANTONI is a two-time NBA Coach of the Year.  Sure, he's great and all, but he's no Coach K.

I didn't know THE PEARL was set in La Paz, but the story of a pearl diver is inspired by a Mexican folk tale.

I've heard thin pancakes referred to as blinis, but never the singular BLIN.  But since it's from the Russian, that makes sense.

I was not familiar with ROC Nation, the record label founded by Jay-Z.  I wanted to put *DEF Nation at first.

It still doesn't look right department: IBANEZ is a Japanese brand of guitars that pioneered the seven-string and eight-string models.  It is named after Salvador Ibáñez, a 19th-century Spanish luthier.

"Where a big bowl is found" is PASADENA, California, home to the Rose Bowl, called "the granddaddy of them all" because it's the oldest football bowl game.

"Planet Money" is an economic podcast from NPR.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote "TO HELEN" in 1831 apparently in honor of a family friend.  Poe uses the Helen of Troy myth as a basis and riffs on Sappho and Samuel Taylor Coleridge to extol the comforting allure of women.

The historic Moana Hotel is on the island of OAHU.  It was the scene of a famous murder mystery:  Jane Stanford, co-founder of Sanford University, was killed there by strychnine poisoning and her killer was never discovered.

It also still doesn't look right department: ANSONIA is a city in Connecticut near New Haven.  It is known as "The Copper City" because of its history of heavy machine industry.  It is also home to a famous clock manufacturing business that went defunct and was sold to a Soviet company.

The HOP-STEP is a cute little name for a basketball move.  Land on two feet, or you'll be called for traveling!

I see we're using the spelling UEYS, and not *UIES, again.

ORIENTE is a no longer extant province of Cuba, having been broken up into five provinces after the revolution.  Its claim to fame?  The Castro brothers were born there.  And now you know... the rest of the story.

Mark Twain National Forest is 1.5 million camping and hiking acres located in the OZARKS, Missouri.  It is Missouri's only national forest.

I've never heard of OTRANTO, a coastal town in Italy in Lecce province (on the heel of the boot), famous for its castle, the Castello Aragonese, and its cathedral.  But then, why would I have heard of it?

Did you know Nancy Drew's boyfriend was named NED Nickerson?  Me neither, but that's hilarious!

"Last monarch of the House of Stuart" is ANNE, which came up December 31, 2017.

Men's fashion designer Perry ELLIS appeared September 12, 2017.

Appliance brand AMANA was last seen December 6, 2017.

Clever clues: "Worked from home?" is UMPED.  "Big-studying org." is NSA.  "What a conductor might conduct" is HEAT.  "Bit of advice before taking off?" is DIET TIP.  "Closest to base?' is EVILEST.  "Grate stuff" is ASH.

Construction-wise, this puzzle was elegant, a real BUTTE.  But it was possibly unnecessarily hard.  POOH on you, Joe Fagliano!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 13, 2018

My time: 18:52, not so bad.

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Alan Derkazarian constructed this Saturday toughie, with such interesting fill as UNITED FRONT, ERAGON, SEMI-ARID, EGG MCMUFFIN, LANGUOR, and GO DEEP.  I'M IMPRESSED.

A phsyiognomist studies FACES, which I only got through crossfill.

Palma is the largest city and capital of the Ballearic Islands, Spain, off the east coast.  Palma is located on the popular holiday resort island, MAJORCA, also spelled Mallorca.  I didn't know about this, which was the start of my NE corner troubles that stopped me from getting close to my record.

"Little GTO" is a 1964 song by Ronnie & the Daytonas, a Beach Boys clone.  "Three deuces and a four-speed / And a three-eighty-nine / Listen to her tachin' up now / Listen to her whine."  Not sure I get all of that.

ZINC has the atomic number 30.  How do we remember that?  Once you're thirty, you're an adult, and it's either zinc or swim.

The former Ecuadoran currency is SUCRES.  This is has been replaced by the U.S. Dollar.

Charles HAID was an actor who starred in Altered States and is probably best known for portraying Officer Andy Renko in "Hill Street Blues."

"London or Manchester" is a tricky one.  It refers to Jack London and William Manchester.  The latter served in WWII and got a Purple Heart, then wrote about his experiences in Goodbye Darkness.  His most famous book is probably The Death of a President, about the JFK assassination.  So, in sum, the answer is WRITER.

I've heard of Leonhard EULER, of course, but I didn't know he was blind.  He spent nearly forty years blind from eye strain, fever, and later a cataract, but it's didn't slow down his prodigious output of work in all manner of scientific fields.

Being a fan of classic rock, alternative, folk, singer-songwriter, world, and the generally outré music scene, I'm aware of SOLANGE, but had no idea she had a #1 album called A Seat at the Table.

"Like an eisteddfod festival" is WELSH. This is a term for any festival of Welsh culture, food, and writing.  The National Eisteddfod is eight days of music and poetry competitions entirely in Welsh.  I wish I could go!

ASTER appeared on November 13, 2017 as "fall bloomer."  Now it's "bloom that is often white or lavender."

"1940 Fonda role" gave me trouble.  I thought maybe "Deed?" But of course that's Deeds and also it stars Gary Cooper.  It's JOAD, from Grapes of Wrath.

In music, 2/2 time signature is known as duple time.  But it is also known as common time or CUT TIME, represented by a C-shaped symbol.  It is also called alla breve.

"Related to colored rings" is a roundabout clue for AREOLAR.

I noted that the PRIDE PARADE is in June, because June is Pride Month, back on December 18, 2017.

Did you know a Newfoundland or golden retriever is an example of a WATER DOG?  Me neither.

Okay, I have never heard of MLB pitcher Orlando Hernández, much less his nickname, EL DUQUE.  I see his half-brother shot seven women and then killed himself in June 2010.

Another country musician today: Mike ELI.  He is the singer of the Eli Young Band.  He's from these here parts where I live!

A few sly jokes in the clues this time around.  "Hope was once its driving force" is USO TOUR, ha!  "Throw a bomb" is GO DEEP. "Field work" is NORMA RAE, which is very clever.

Well, that's it, and now I MUSSED BOLT.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 12, 2018

My time: 11:58, pretty close to my record!  Not bad!

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Erik Agard constructed this themeless with seven answers that span the grid east to west.  And THAT'S A TALL ORDER!  He really SPARED NO EXPENSE.

I had no idea that the phrase "EACH ONE TEACH ONE" had its roots in American slaves teaching each other to read on the sly.

I've heard of MEL Tillis, but MEL McDaniel is a new one to me.  He had several mostly positive, fun hits, the most notable being "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On."  He died of cancer at 68, sadly.

Pluralizing the meditation utterance into OMS is weak.

Did you know a llama was a CAMELID?  Me neither.

"Big brand of kitchenware" is OXO.  It was founded in 1990 as a line that was more helpful to grip for those with arthritic or otherwise weak hands.

We've seen golfer ISAO Aoki way back on November 17, 2017, but I had forgotten his name.

INDEPENDENCE AVE. is a major Washington DC street that runs east to west.  In addition to the National Air and Space Museum, it runs adjacent to far too many landmarks to list here.  The western terminus is the Lincoln Memorial.

PayPal was co-founded by Peter THIEL and three others.  They later merged with an online payment service called X.com which Elon Musk founded.  Thiel has three citizenships: German, New Zealand, and the US.  He's worth over two billion dollars.

I am pretty sure that the spelling ENURE for "accustom" is wrong.  Inure is the current word.  An argument could be made that enure is an older form, but then the clue should indicate that they want the archaic form.

I thought the NFL Hall-of-Famer was Michael *IRWIN, but it's Michael IRVIN.  He played for the Cowboys and his nickname was "The Playmaker" for his big plays.  He helped take them 'Boys to three Super Bowl wins.

New Brunswick is an eastern province of Canada and borders MAINE.

I would not have said that the OTTER is related to the weasel, but they are both mustelids.

Clever clues: "Big Apple?' is IMAC.  "Where people may order push-ups" isn't the military, but VICTORIA'S SECRET.

And I'll ALEVE it at that.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 11, 2018

My time: 17:21.

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I'mma let you finish, Wednesday, but Sam Trabucco's Thursday puzzle was the trickiest puzzle of all time.  Of.  All.  Time!

Just kidding.  This puzzle plays with interruption and how we depict that in writing.  I don't know if any other puzzle has included a dash before, but it's very clever.  "Line from someone who's been interrupted" is the clue for three answers, which are PLEASE LET ME FIN-, DO I LOOK LIKE I'M D-, and QUIET, I WAS SPEAK-.  Underneath each is a clued continuation.  They are, respectively: "kinda" is ISH, "joined" is ONE, and "Beethoven's Minuet ____" is IN G, or ING when used as a continuation for the third interrupted clue above.

The fun thing is that the dashes are part of the clue, so the the crossfill incorporates the dashes: HI-C, A-Z, and NO-NO.

"Hasbro toy that involves pulling and twisting" is BOP IT.  After my time.  Now there's an updated version where you can selfie it and sing it!

"School located in San Luis Obispo" is CAL POLY.  Officially it's California Polytechnic State University, but you wouldn't know that by looking at their web page.  The name of the city seemed familiar, and indeed it was an answer on September 30, 2017.

I was totally baffled by "Some canasta plays."  I'm not a group card game player.  For some reason I kept thinking of castanets.  Anyway, it's MELDS.  In the game, a meld is a grouping of cards of the same rank, such as a group of queens.  A meld of seven or more cards is called a canasta.

NAN Goldin is an American painter whose images often feature LGBT themes.

Mercedes RUEHL, who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her role in The Fisher King, has a hard name to spell.

MAUNA Loa, it's been a while.

I've never heard of George AIKEN, governor of Vermont and then senator for Vermont from 1941-1975.  A Republican, he supported an early form of food stamps, the Full Employment Act, aid to education, and a minimum wage.  He also opposed Joe McCarthy.  The Republican platform has changed 180 degrees since the 1940s and '50s.

Clever clues: "What may take its toll?" is HWY.  "Is appealing" is PLEADS.  "Body shot?" is MRI SCAN.  "Provider of global support?" is ATLAS.  "Exchanged bonds?' is I DOS.

That's AWLS she wrote, so ADO for now.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 10, 2018

Today's time: 12:31.

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This puzzle is by Democratic senator from Indiana Joe Donnelly and Michael S. Maurer.  The theme is sports puns.  Or apparently, basketball puns, as I found out later.  The clues are admirably amusing.  "Warning during a heist?" is BANK SHOT (which is also a term in hockey and billiards).  "Gutterball?" is ALLEY-OOPS.  "Dinner at the end of Ramadan?" is FAST BREAK.  "Rug store promotion?" is FREE THROW.  "Something bleeped out for television?" is FOUL LINE.

One thing that tripped me up, besides the sports terms I'm not very familiar with, was Eric SEVAREID, CBS anchor from 1939 to 1977, one of "Murrow's boys."  He was the first to report the fall of Paris when it was captured by the Germans during World War II.  He was investigated by the FBI for alleged Communist sympathies.

"Artists' oil sources" is LINSEEDS.  Linseed oil is used as a pigment binder and a wood varnish.  It can also be called flax oil.

OLAY, which used to be Oil of Olay, has the tagline "Ageless."  Other slogans have included "Love the skin you're in" and "Challenge what's possible."

I've never heard of SKAT, a German trick-tacking card game played with 32 cards.

Punta del ESTE is a Uruguayan resort city famed for its beaches and right whales.

A "two-bagger" is a DBL in baseball, which I managed to suss out after a few minutes' confusion.

The SOO Locks (called Canals in the puzzle), sometimes spelled Sault Locks, are located on the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Hudson.  They allow boats to travel from Superior to the lower lakes.  The name is a corruption of Sault, as in the Sault Ste. Marie Bridge which connects Michigan and Ontario.

The other clue I had trouble with was "bestow, to Burns," which is GIE, but I rather dumbly put *GAE for too long.

Spalding is a big basketBALL brand, while Voit is a colored playground rubber BALL maker.

Clever clues: "Smart farm animal?" is WISE ASS.  "Digital media player that's 'big' in New York City?" is APPLE TV.  While ZED for "the end of the British monarchy?" doesn't make any sense, ARSE for the same clue is very good.

SOL much for this puzzle.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 9, 2017

My time: 9:01.

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Peter A. Collins fills up our appetite for trivia with clues that have MEET IN THE MIDDLE.  Phonetically, that is.  See the "meat?"  NORTH AMERICA, LIVE A LIE, STROBE EFFECT, CLAM BAKE.

"Airplane wing feature" is SLAT.  To be precise, a leading-edge slat.  These are aerodynamic surfaces on the leading edge of the wings of fixed-wing aircraft which, when deployed, allow the wing to operate at a higher angle of attack.  And now I know that term too!

"Cool, giant sun" is S-STAR.  This rang a vague bell, and sure enough on September 27, 2017, F-star was a clue.  An F-type star is a white-yellow dwarf.  A S-type star, on the other hand, is a cool giant with equal quantities of carbon and oxygen in its atmosphere, and spectral bands of zirconium monoxide, whatever those are.

IOS is not only an Apple operating system, it is a Greek island in the Aegean, in the Cyclades group.  It's famous for its cheeses, particularly skotíri.

And now I know Donald Trump's middle name is JOHN.  Appropriate for a toilet-mouthed cretin.

Yesterday we had beauty company Aveda.  I've never heard of today's beauty company, Adrien ARPEL.  It was founded by its namesake, Adrien Arpel.

Something I really ought to know but can't seem to keep in my head: SANAA, de jure Yemen's capital. That's probably because the de facto capital has been Aden for a few years now.

Did you know that Frederick Douglass was once Ambassador to HAITI?  Me neither.

"I'VE Got Love on my Mind" is a song made famous by Natalie Cole.  It reached #5 on the Billboard charts in 1977.

I'm not usually a stickler for "clean" fill, but there's a lot of KHZ and SDS in this puzzle, and the Canon model EOS is neither very well known nor easily deduced from a letter or two.

Even I have heard of EBBETS Field, the Dodgers stadium in Brooklyn!  It took me some crossfill to get that this was the stadium where Jackie Robinson played, though.

Clever clues: "Tip of France?" is EURO.  "Operator's org?" is AMA.

And that RAPT it up.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 8, 2017

Today's time: 8:14, which is pretty slow for a Monday.

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Sam Ezersky celebrates Monday with a puzzle whose theme is... phrases that end in the long A sound!  Like as in Monday!  And, uh, all the other days also.

Clued answers include IS THAT OKAY, GLASS OF OJ, and YOU WILL OBEY.

Yay!

Bona fide is the better-known flip side of MALA fide, "in bad faith."

Everyone knows Joe Namath, but can I name his team offhand?  No, I can't.  He was QB for the NY JETS for most of his career, 1965-76.

The ST. CLAIR River is the boundary between Michigan and Ontario.  It drains Lake Huron into Lake St. Clair, which then flows down the Detroit River to Lake Erie.  Interesting factoid: It was named after St. Clare of Assisi, who was featured on December 21.

I'm not exactly the top demographic for AVEDA, a hair and skin care company.

MILO O'SHEA was an Irish actor who was in Barbarella and played Leopold Bloom in Ulysses.

Green party spoiler JILL Stein is an abetter of evil.

TORTE was wrong yesterday, but right today.

I have no idea why this took me so long.  Maybe because some of the clues are somewhat vague for a Monday, like "sunset shades" for ORANGES, or maybe it's because I kept misspelling coffee KLATCH.  Oh well.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 7, 2018

Today's time: 37:38, but I'm not sweating it because this was a complicated rebus and it had technical flaws to boot

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So David Steinberg made this monstrosity, which plays with vowel pairs.  On certain answers, two clues are given.  These answers have special circled squares in which two vowels go, rebus-style, so that each answer can be read two different ways.

For example.  "Preceder of free throws / Juice container?' reads as F[O/U][U/E]LC[A/E]LL, which if read with the first vowels is FOUL CALL and if with the second vowel set is FUEL CELL.  Second and last example.  "Cookies filled with green creme / Flatfish sea creatures" reads as M[I/A]NT[O/A]R[E/A][O/Y]S which can be read as MINT OREOS or MANTA RAYS. 

So there you have it.  If I had done this puzzle on paper, I am sure my time would have been much more truncated.  First, on paper the rebus squares are divided in two, rather than just circles, so it's immediately obvious that you need to put two letters in each special square.  Second, and much more worthy of note, the damned NYT app has two answers written wrong!!  On that FOUL CALL answer, the crossfill they demand for "best at a hotdog contest" is UOTEAT.  Obviously that's supposed to be OUTEAT.  On another answer, where SPICY FOOD / SPECIFIED runs across, a down answer is supposed to be OPIOID but the app thinks it's OPIIOD.  Now that's bad editing.

And for the rest...

I can never remember Mr. Dithers' wife in "Blondie" --- *DORA, *NORA?  Nope, CORA.  Maybe because she has to be CORAgeous to deal with that apoplectic curmudgeon?

"Ristorante dessert" is TORTA.  I put *TORTE as first.  "Torta" is just Italian for cake.

I have not heard of the Richard Simmons plan DEAL-A-MEAL.  People still use it.  In this plan, you have cards allotting you an amount of food in each day and as you eat, you move the cards to the already eaten section.

For "so-called cradle of civilization" I put *INDUS, but it's SUMER.

I knew the name ELIAS Howe, but wasn't sure what he's famous for.  He is a sewing machine pioneer.  He also had an idea for a zipper but never followed through with it.  He is famous for using a shillelagh cane.

SAULT Ste. Marie is a town in Michigan.  There is also one in Canada.  I often have trouble remembering how to spell it.

We knew the Warriors were probably in the NBA, but did we know they were the Golden State Warriors?  Not if we were me we didn't.  They are affectionately called the "Dubs," ha ha.

Totally new to me department: SUBGUM, which didn't look right even after the puzzle was finished.  I've eaten a lot of Chinese food and I've never heard of it.  It's a dish of meat, or seafood, mixed with vegetables and noodles, or rice, or soup.  So, the most specific you can get about it is that it's "Asian food."

Also new to me and didn't look right: PREAMP, or preamplifier.  Its purpose is basically to clear up a noisy signal before it gets to the amplifier or speaker.

I took a class on pre-Socratic philosophers and majored in philosophy, but still couldn't remember Zeno of ELEA, proving once again that what I think I know well, I don't.  I knew he was famed for his paradoxes.  He was possibly tortured and killed by a tyrant, suggesting that philosophers shouldn't mix with politics.

IRWIN Shaw isn't a writer I'm familiar with; his star has dimmed in modern times.  He's best known for his novels The Young Lions (1948) and Rich Man, Poor Man (1970). 

Did you know Harry Potter had a girlfriend named CHO CHANG?  Me neither.  She ended up marrying a muggle.  He married Ginny Weasley.  No way!  Harrmione 4eva!!!

I remembered ETHEL Kennedy from December 16.

And got Cape ANN from its appearance on September 13, 2017.

DEV Patel sure shows up in crosswords a lot.

I'm far from a prude but am still mildly surprised to see WHAT A TOOL in a New York Times puzzle.

I'm more familiar with the meaning "large imposing house" for MANSE rather than "minister's home."

The PINEAL gland produces melatonin, which regulates sleep patterns.  It is also known as the conarium or epiphysis cerebri, but let's stick with pineal gland because those others look really hard to say. 

I was tricked with comp SCI (computer science) because my mind went to comp *LIT (comparative literature).

Wines from the Rhein country are called RHENISH, not *RHINISH.

Who doesn't love actress SAOIRSE Ronan?  Probably most crossword puzzle constructors.  I heard of her when she hosted SNL and offended her fellow Irishpeople with Aer Lingus mockery.

Read "Daddy Warbucks' bodyguard" and immediately Punjab spring to mind, but this one is THE ASP, a slight Asian man who is master of various martial arts.  He was also in the movie.

Interesting sports fact: a clue had to be changed because after print, it was no longer true that the LIONS were the only NFL team ever to go 0-16 in a season; they suddenly became only the first team to do so.  The Cleveland BROWNS recently matched them.  Additional fact: last year, the Browns were 1-15.  I bet they thought they could only go up from there, but they were wrong.
 
Clever clues: "Babies grow into them" is KIDS. "Sin subject?" is TRIG.  "Flare-ups in the hood?" is CAR FIRES.  "Part of a wedding that drags" is TRAIN.  "Grp. with wands" is TSA.

Ugh, good puzzle, but I wanted to STOP and go back to BED once I saw the app error.  I'm RARIN' for Monday!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 6, 2017

My time: 18:35, pretty good for me!

--

Peter Wentz delivers up a tough but fair themeless with some lesser-used fill: BRAKE FLUID, ONE AT A TIME, POWER LEVEL, DARE TO DREAM, MAJOR LABELS, DART GUN, and others.

"What you can do to 'Moon River'" made me think the answer was going to mean "sing it" but it's WALTZ because apparently Mancini wrote it in 3/4 time.  It has, however, been rearranged in other signatures.

I had forgotten about Paula ZAHN, the news anchor mentioned way back on September 20, who was apparently one of the original hosts of "American Morning," with Anderson Cooper.

I don't think of the EPEE as an Olympics event because I think of the whole thing, I guess, as "fencing."  But there it is.

CADENT ("rhythmic") is not a very common word, but that's Saturday for you.

I thought "chaser of un trago de tequila" should be "sel" or "lima" but it's AGUA.

The poplar "Price is Right" game is PLINKO.  It was introduced in 1983. At first I had *PLINGO, which seems to be the default name of similar rip-off games.

For "Chesterfield, for one" I immediately put *SOFA.  But it's COAT.  A Chesterfield is a long tailored overcoat, named after George Stanhope, 6th Earl of Chesterfield.

"Noted Brit in the news" is HUME.  Not David Hume, the philosopher.  Does it mean John Hume, the Irish politician who was an architect of the peace process?  But he's retired.  I'm lost.  Is it a joke I don't get?

Ohio University's sports teams are the BOBCATS.  The mighty 'cats!  Go cats!  Etc.

Today I learned that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, located in ATL, has been the world's busiest airport by traffic since 1998.

For "high-end Hyundai" I put *ACURA, because I forgot that Acura is actually Honda's luxury brand.  This is a Hyundai model: AZERA.

"Places for braces" could be "teeth" or even "pants" if you're thinking British, but it's ANKLES.

"Wide-staring owl" is a phrase from Wordsworth's long work "The Excursion," part six, "The Churchyard Among the Mountains."

Clever clues: "kitty-corner things?" is LITTER BOXES.  "Something good for Charlie Brown?" is GRIEF.  "Sticking point?" is VOODOO DOLL.  "Terminals at London Heathrow?" is ZEDS.  "English channel" is THE BEEB.  "Deal breakers, for short?" is DEA.

OOF, that's a lot of clever stuff.  But I did pretty well today.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: January 5, 2018

My time: 17:42.

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A tough themeless by Ned White with a lot of new and interesting fill: SOLO CUP, BEACHCOMB, CRAWDADDY, WHITE SALES, CACAO TREE, SECRET WORD, ON A LARK, and more.

I did most of this puzzle fairly quickly, then spend an additional five minutes on the NW corner.  I've heard of "SMACKDOWN," the wrestling show on since 1999, but it didn't immediately spring to mind.  Similarly, "Southwestern casserole with a cornbread crust" is a fine clue for TAMALE PIE, but it just didn't come to me.

But most troubling of all, for "Part of Wagner's Ring cycle" I had *RHEINGOLD, but it's the English RHINEGOLD, argh.  This tripped me up for quite some time.

CETUS is the constellation known as "the whale," as noted on November 30, in a clue about its brightest star, Mira.

As a Sherlock buff, I knew what "she is always the woman" referred to, but I'm not enough of a Sherlockian to be able to come up with IRENE Adler by myself (though once I saw the first name, I recalled her last name too).  Canon-wise, she appears only in "A Scandal in Bohemia."

An EARL is the peer rank behind marquis.  The line of power goes baron, viscount, earl, marquess, duke.

Rhode Island is known as the OCEAN State.  I guess because it has 400 miles of coastline?

I was so tickled to see ROTOS ("old newspaper photo sections, informally") because only this morning, by total coincidence, I had read the word "rotogravure" in Mr. Popper's Penguins.  I had taken special note of the uses in contemporary culture:
Irving Berlin's song "Easter Parade" specifically refers to these type of supplements in the lines "the photographers will snap us, and you'll find that you're in the rotogravure". And the song "Hooray for Hollywood" contains the line "…armed with photos from local rotos" referring to young actresses hoping to make it in the movie industry.
Phil MAHRE, another sporty figure I've never heard of and know nothing about.  He's an alpine ski racer with 27 World Cup race wins.

I don't associate Paul KLEE with Bauhaus, but apparently he taught at the Bauhaus school.

"City north of Lisbon" is OPORTO, the second-largest city in Portugal, but commonly called Porto, so this extra letter made me confused for a while.

Captain WILLARD is the character played by Martin Sheen, ordered to terminate Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.  He's sort of like the observer figure Marlow in Conrad's novel.

I've never heard of Leon AMES.  He was a character actor in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Peggy Sue Got Married (his final role).

I heartily approve of the spelling "PTUI" for "spittoon sound."

KIRS are cocktails made with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine.  It named after Félix Kir, mayor of Dijon.  A Kir Royale is made with champagne instead, yum.

NGAIO Marsh was a New Zealand-born crime writer.  She was known as one of the great "Queens of Crime" along with Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie.  She wrote 32 novels about her gentlemanly inspector, Roderick Alleyn.  Her name is a Maori word meaning a flower or type of bug.

AHMED is a character in the Arabian Nights story "Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou."  He is the youngest son of a sultan, and possesses a magic tent that could fit in his pocket but house an army.

ACRO-, meet ACR-, from yesterday.

Clever clue: "Game you never want to get your fill of?" is TETRIS.

Well, this puzzle was TOTES tough, but at least I wasn't BOORed.

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 16, 2018

My time: 16:09 . -- Alan Arbesfeld probably wishes this puzzle would have run tomorrow, because it celebrates the work of ROBERT / DENIR...