Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 29, 2018

My time: 12:16, pretty good.

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Claire Muscat and David Steinberg go nuts with this puzzle, which contains three types hidden away (for winter?) in phrases.  However, the twist is that there is an extra letter stowed away within the nuts -- an N, a U, and a T, to spell NUT in the circled letters. LEAN CORNED BEEF contains A(N)CORN, BURIAL MOUND contains ALMO(U)ND, and LIFE EXPECTANCY contains PEC(T)AN.  Is there a reason for all this nuttery?  Is it National Nut Day?  I don't know nuttin,' honey.

I like the metaclue "the answer to this clue is located on one" for EDGE (it's at the north border).

"Dash letters" made me focus on Morse code until it became clear that the dash was in a car: MPH.

For "powdered ingredient in sweet teas and smoothies" I put *KALE and then *ACAI.  It's TARO.  That doesn't go in tea!  But it does go in bubble tea, which is not real tea.  It's nutritious!

"An end to terrorism?" for QAEDA is so so awful that I didn't dare to enter it even with the beginning Q.   I mean, that's barely wordplay at all, and totally tone-deaf.

For "letters on a beach bottle" I put *SOS but it's a different kind of bottle: SPF.

I've never heard of "Facebook Messenger precursor" ICHAT.

"Mythical hunter" for NEMEAN lion is just plain wrong.  It wasn't a hunter, it was a lion.  This is the most blatant error I have seen yet in the Times crossword.

I can't keep track of every perfume.  Apparently DIOR makes J'adore.

The New York Times also likes corporation genealogies.  RCA, founded in 1919, is a descendant of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, commonly called American Marconi.

Pierre-Simon LAPLACE was a French astronomer and mathematician who wrote a five-volume treatise called Celestial Mechanics (Mécanique Céleste). 

48 Across is a raised hyphen and the answer is DELTA.  I think something may be missing?

The PIKE is one of the four main diving positions, in which your legs are straight and you're bent at the waist with your head facing your tibiae.  There should be no gap between the upper and lower body.

ETAS as in the frat letter came up on January 16.

Clever clues: "Puts blades to blades, say" is MOW.  "Cut protections" is a noun, not a verb + object: SCABS.  "Driving instructor?" is GOLF PRO.  "Like good spellers?" is WICCAN.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 28, 2018

My time: 7:57, not too bad.

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Peter Gordon's attempt at difficult themes focuses on TEE.  Like the third, fourth and fifth words of the previous sentence, every word of the theme answers and the clues ends in TEE.  To wit: "Part of Iran that can get quite hot:" GREAT SALT DESERT (known locally as Daskt-e Kavir); "suddenly showed interest:" SAT BOLT UPRIGHT; "didn't speak of, as a touchy subject:" KEPT QUIET ABOUT; and "finally, though as important," LAST BUT NOT LEAST.

Happy T-day, I guess?

"Org. with a Grand Esteemed Loyal Knight" is BPOE, short for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.  Another possible answer might be KKK; they love weird names like that.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a 1955 novel by SLOAN Wilson about the American search for purpose in a world dominated by business.

I've never heard of R&B singer LIL' MO.   She started at Missy Elliott's protegee.  She then went on to have a few hits that I never heard of.

"Israeli region that includes Eliat" is the desert region NEGEVEliat is a resort town known for its coral reef.

I am the single-most clueless American male about sports, an ongoing series:
Never heard of Nascar Hall-of-Famer NED Jarrett.  He was known as "Gentleman Ned Jarrett."

Never heard of baseball player Rich AURILIA.  He was a shortstop who played for several teams, notably for the San Francisco Giants.

I'm not a classical cognoscento either.  Licia ALBANESE was noted especially for her portrayals of the lyric heroines of Verdi and Puccini, Albanese was a leading artist with the Metropolitan Opera from 1940 to 1966.

The film title The Story of ADELEH really baffled me.  What the heck is Adeleh?  Nothing, because it's ADELE H, as in The Story of Adèle H., a 1975 film by François Truffaut.  It's about the daughter of Victor Hugo, who has obsessive unrequited love for a military officer.

Boy, I really don't know a lot of highbrow culture!

Another person I've never heard of is Rabbi Meir KAHANE, a right-wing orthodox Israeli politician who was criticized in Israel for being racist.  For example, he wanted to outlaw sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews, and enforce second-class citizenry on non-Jews living in Israel.

"Red snapper, at a sushi restaurant" is TAI.   The fish called TAI in sushi restaurants is actually Pagrus major.  There is another fish called TAI snapper that is not a snapper, but a sea bream, or porgy, native to New Zealand.

TAGS UP ('retouches after a fly ball is caught") appeared December 28, 2017.

Tennis great Rafael NADAL last appeared November 19, 2017, as the 2017 US Open Winner.  Here he is clued as an 2008 Olympic gold medalist.

That's LOTS of new concepts and references, FOLKS.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 27, 2018

My time: 8:42, pretty slow for a Tuesday!

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Peter Koetters plays with geography names in this puzzle.  Creating imaginary taglines for tourist boards, he gives us four themed answers: "Explore Alaska! It's" MORE THAN JUNEAU!  "Writers and photographers will find Michigan a great place for" FREE-LANSING!  "Blow into Maine on" AUGUSTA WIND!  And "I was afraid to ski, but in New Hampshire I" CONCORD MY FEARS!

Ha!  Map puns.

I like the clue "hoot" for RIOT.

For a three-letter word for "john," it's either going to be *LOO or LAV.  The latter this time.

I got Southend-on-Sea's county, ESSEX, right off from the crossfill.

"Key with three sharps" is A MAJ.  The three are C#, F#, and G#.  I really don't understand music scales and signatures an chords and tones and sharps and keys.

I've never heard of Fijian-born golfer VIJAY SINGH.  He was number one with 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005.  He has won three major championships.

"Family Ties" mom ELYSE Keaton really stymied me.  With my brain not yet fully engaged, I had the themed pun written "correctly" (therefore wrong) as FREELANCING, which gave me *ELYCE, which to me looked just as good as the actual spelling.

For "northern achipelago dweller" I had *INUIT but it's ALEUT.  An easy mix-up, useful for clever constructors wanting a trap.

For "what drones collect" I put *HONEY but it's INTEL.  I should have remembered that drones don't collect pollen, but only mate with the queen and do no work.

For "conscript" I was thinking of the verb and put *DRAGOON but it's the noun, DRAFTEE.

I'm not too familiar with Susa, ancient city located in what is now Iran.  It was home to the ELAM civilization, known for their cylindrical seals, metalwork, and royal incest.

I know of the place, but obviously, I couldn't have told you that Mikhail Baryshnikov was born in RIGA.  But he was granted Latvian citizenship in 2017 for it!

Silent film actress Pola NEGRI appeared November 4, 2017, with her first name as the fill.  Somehow, I retrieved this tiny fragment from the dustbin of my mind.

Clever clue: "Fixer at a horse race?" is VET (I put *BET at first, not really thinking and conflating the ideas of betting and match-fixing). "Belted one out of this world?" is ORION.  "Green party honoree" is ST. PAT.  "Baby sitter?" is LAP.

Well, I wasn't exactly ACES at this one.  There's no RIME or reason to it; some stuff just STYX in my head and some doesn't.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 26, 2018

My time: 4:31.

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I thought I was on my way to a record, the way I zoomed through this Monday's, but I guess I didn't go as fast as it appeared.  One full minute too slow!

Andy Kravis explores the long vowel sounds in this puzzle: VICTORY LANE ("site of a postrace celebration"), director DAVID LEAN, TOE THE PARTY LINE, MICROLOAN, and the Debussy piano suite CLAIR DE LUNE, based on the Verlaine poem, which I had some trouble with because I kept erroneously trying to make some version of the children's song "Au clair de la lune" fit.  Ha ha, whoops!  I don't know anything about classical music.  (In my defense, the given translation, "light of the moon," fits clair de la lune, but not clair de lune, which is more appropriately "moonlight.")

Spelunkers explore not just caves, but ROCK CAVES.

I didn't know that DELTA had the slogan "Keep Climbing."  The campaign was created by the ad agency Wieden + Kennedy.

Have you ever heard of the Seattle Sounders?  No, you haven't.  They are a team in MLS, or Major League Soccer.

The Renaissance is largely believed to have begun in ITALY.  From Encyclopaedia Britannica: "While the spirit of the Renaissance ultimately took many forms, it was expressed earliest by the intellectual movement called humanism. Humanism began and achieved fruition first in Italy."

The ice cream EDYS last appeared January 21.

EAGLED, or scored two under par on, appeared January 15.  I still think "phoenix" would be a good golf term.

Clever clue: "Finish a drive?" is PAVE.

ANNE that's the end!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 24, 2018

My time: 20:25, oof!

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Byron Walden concocted this rather tough themeless that had me despairing of ever completing it.

I'm not generally a viewer of musicals, so I didn't know what show "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" was from.  It's from "Evita."  I think it could be a number one.  It is sung from the point of view of Juan Perón's mistress, who is kicked out by his future wife Evita.

For "Little Orphan Annie feature" I tried *BLANK EYES and *WHITE EYES before stumbling into the right answer, EMPTY EYES.

Apparently Dyess Air Force Base is in ABILENE, Texas.

I had never heard that Napoleon II was known as "The EAGLET."  Actually he was not known by that epithet in his lifetime; it was popularized in Edmond Rostand's play "L'Aiglon."

The minor league baseball team the Aces are, of course, based in RENO.  They're an affliliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I had a hard time with "coffee-growing region of Hawaii."  It's the KONA COAST, famous for its coffee farms.

I have never heard of the FedEx Office competitor SIR SPEEDY!  But it seems to be pretty well known.  Maybe they just don't have them in my state.

For "coin whose name means small weight" I thought of the French infinitive "to weigh," peser, and that made me think, *PESADO!  No, wait, it's *PESADA!  Then I had *PESATA.  Finally PESETA, the Spanish currency replaced by the euro.

For "Darn tootin" I had *YESIREE BOB, but it's YES INDEEDY.

According to legend, Cain and Abel are buried in ADEN, Yemen.

"MEAN" GENE Okerlund is a wrestler and interviewer in the Wrestling Hall of Fame.  I've seen his face many times but didn't know his name, and learning that he is five foot nine, I'm surprised he was a wrestler as well as a commentator.

Another word I haven't heard: MOTTLERS, meaning brushes with large flat heads.  The puzzle is using the word to mean brushes that make something have a mottled appearance, but I'm not sure that's what the painting community at large uses them for.

From the hazy mists of long-forgotten knowledge in my brain steps Ferdinand de LESSEPS, developer of the Suez Canal.  Luckily he is remembered for this and not his failed attempted to construct a Panama Canal at sea level.

I didn't know ROGAINE had the slogan "Use it or lose it," but that's pretty funny.

HEMI, or the powerful car engine known as a hemispherical combustion chamber, appeared December 17, 2017.

A veritable army of jokes and clever clues today: "No bull market?" is CHINA SHOP.  "Mrs. or Mrs. Right?" is GOP'ER.  "Echo preceder" is DELTA.  "And many times in France?" is ETS, which is more of a groaner than a clever clue.  "Has a fit, maybe?" is TRIES ON.  "Ones hanging around haunted houses?' is NOOSES.  "Street sweep?" is DRAGNET.  "Achieved green efficiency?" is ONE-PUTTED, which took longer than it should because I've never heard that term.  "Mobile greeting" is HI, Y'ALL.  "To fix this you need to get cracking!' is OMELET.

I didn't do all that badly on this one!  What a CLEVER DICK. YES INDEEDY.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 22, 2018

My time: 11:39.

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Ross Trudeau recasts social media phrases as literal wordplay in this puzzle. "One with a lot of likes" is VALLEY GIRL.  "One with a lot of tweets" is "ROCKIN' ROBIN" (the song by Bobby Day includes the word "tweet" a lot).  "One with a lot of shares" is MAJORITY OWNER.  "One with a lot of posts" is FENCE MENDER.  And "one with a lot of followers" is the least clever one, MOTHER DUCK.

Yukons and Envoys are GMCS.  I've heard of the Yukon but not the Envoy.

"Round after the Elite Eight" is SEMIS.  I've never heard of the Elite Eight.  It means the final eight teams in the NCAA basketball tournament.  So the next round is the semifinals, I guess.

"Dutch financial giant" is ING.  It's a banking and insurance concern.  Its logo is an orange lion, alluding to its origins under the House of Orange-Nassau.  ING doesn't appear to stand for anything in particular.

EDM stands for Electronic Dance Music, and techno is a subgenre of it, I guess.

I feel like "YEA big" deserves a little more context in the clue, something like "...how one might informally approximate," or similar.  Also, I'm not satisfied with the spelling, though I also dislike the idea of "yay big."  To Google!  "Yay big" gives 371,000 results, while "YEA big" gets only 265,000, and many of those seem to be someone's hip-hop moniker.

Did you know that a walk is not counted as an AT BAT?  Me neither.

The EPA was established on December 2, 1970, during Nixon's presidency.

In Giacomo Puccini's opera "Tosca," all the central characters die.  It's set in ROME.

Arthur ASHE was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 by Bill Clinton.

I've never heard of the cartoon dog McBarker, but I somehow intuited he belonged to Mr. MAGOO.

On the other end of the brow spectrum, "Lucia di Lammermoor baritone" ENRICO is a baffling series of words to the uninitiated like me.  So, "Lucia di Lammermoor" is a tragic opera by Gaetano Donizetti, loosely based upon Sir Walter Scott's historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor.  One of the characters is Lord Enrico Ashton, played by a baritone.

If I watched "Game of Thrones," I would have gotten boy king JOFFREY right off instead of needing a lot of crossfill.

I forgot that Mississippi Masala director MIRA Nair appeared December 17, 2017.

ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), the "Blue Devils' grp," has come up before more than once, with the same clue on October 29, 2017.

Clever clue: "Thyme piece?" is SILENT H.  I guess that's a "piece" of the word thyme.  Ugh?  "Hart-to-hit pitches" is HIGH CS.

More than A DAB of new and troubling stuff in this puzzle.  I did GNAT do as well as I'd like, but I MAI do better next time there's a question about Lucia di Lammermoor!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 21, 2018

My time: 8:16.

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Laura Baunstein gives us some phrases turned into animal puns.  DUCKS OUT OF VIEW is "why the hunter couldn't shoot mallards."  FLIES IN THE FACE is "reason a cow swatted herself."  SEALS WITH A KISS is "circus animals enjoying some chocolate."  and YAKS ON THE PHONE is "whose conversation might be about shaggy hair and Himalayan peaks."

I swear every town in California must have been a crossword clue at one time or other.  LOS Gatos is part of Silicon Valley and the 33rd wealthiest city in the United States.

"Good old pal" SAL has appeared enough that it's in my brain now.

AT&T Park is a baseball stadium at 24 Willie Mays Plaza in San Francisco.  It's home to the SF GIANTS!

Did you know the setting of Hawaii FIVE-O is OAHU?  Me neither.

I don't think I've heard the term FIXIE for a single-gear bike.  It's short for fixed-gear bicycle.

"NL'er wearing blue and orange" is N.Y. MET.

I like the clue "not-so-intimidating sort of test" for TAKE-HOME.

Clever clue: "Where a person in charge is making the rounds?" is BAR.

Okay, so I have no idea why this took me so long.  I really didn't have trouble with a lot of stuff.  I guess I'm a slow poke NERD.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 20, 2018

My time: 5:59.

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I missed the whole weekend and Monday due to family activities, but I'm back on the train, just as a non-daily commuter.  Anyway, Andrew Zhou created this quite fun puzzle for the vernal equinox, which is one of the year's SEASON OPENERS (a sports term, used here as a literal definition of the first day of a season).  If you read the theme answers with a bit of slur and think phonetically, they "say" the names of the four seasons: SPRINKLER HEAD for spring, SOMERSAULTED for summer, OTTOMAN EMPIRE for autumn, and WIND TURBINES for winter.

Some good fill outside of the theme, like THREE-RING BINDER, GOLD STARS, and STUNT SHOW.

SHEA stadium makes an appearance, noted as being RAZED in 2008 (and, as I know from previous entries, sort-of replaced with Arthur Ashe Park).

I have never heard of op-ed writer ROSS Douthat.  He is a somewhat palatable conservative and has a name that is conducive to ordering him around.

"Pitch-perfect?" is NO-HIT.  Ha, that's a baseball pun.

EDINBORO University is a school in the city of the same name in western Pennsylvania.  Its mascot is the Fighting Scot!  Och aye!

STE.-Foy is a former city in Quebec, now amalgamated into Quebec City.  It is pretty nondescript.

Here's another question about SUMO.  The name of a sumo ring is dohyo.  This is a ring 4.55 meters in diameter.

"Tulsa sch." is ORU, for Oral Roberts University.  This came up with the place name as the answer on November 19, 2017.

Good GAWD almighty, I did this puzzle pretty quick.  And now OWL be going.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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

My time: 18:48, which ain't great.

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Joe DiPietro celebrates THE IDES of March in this puzzle.  This is a clue that four answers also contain the contraction I'd: I'D TAKE THAT, I'D BETTER GO, I'D RATHER NOT, and I'D BE HONORED.

Confusingly, there is also a row at the south end that contains"A New Leaf" actress and director ELAINE MAY (Mike Nichols' old partner) and APRIL ("when the regular NBA season ends").  There doesn't seem to be any reason for this.

For tail-shedding lizard I kept wanting to put *GECKO but it's SKINK.

NATAN, a variant of Nathan, is a name meaning "he has given" or "he will give" in Hebrew.

"All the cabaret shows" are in "GAY PAREE," according to the song of the same name by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse, sung by Robert Preston in the movie Victor/Victoria.

"Arithmetic series symbol" is SIGMA, which is a symbol, Σ, that indicates one should sum the numbers according to the notation.  I originally put *SUMMA, which is sometimes how people refer to ∫, the integral symbol.

I'd never heard of these, but T-TOPS are cars with two sunroofs, one on each side, so a "quasi-convertible."

NUT-LIKE ("hard and crunchy, maybe") really took me a while to fill in.

I'm terrible at geography.  I know of the existence of OAXACA and Veracruz, but I couldn't place them on a map.

I'm terrible at sports.  For a good long while I had *RED FLAG for soccer penalty rather than RED CARD.

I've heard of a BREN machine gun (fun fact: its name comes from a corruption of the Czech city of Brno), but I could not have told you it had an "air-cooled barrel."

Although I knew it was a women's military corps, I had a hard time putting together the specific letters for WAACS.  It's the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.  Later it dropped the Auxiliary and just became the WAC.

I have never heard the term BEAR PIT for the trading floor, although it obviously makes sense.

I don't like "weakness" as a clue for ANEMIA, but there it is.  Also I'm not that familiar with SIMP as "dimwit," but it's short for simpleton.

The pretentious ET ALII appeared January 29.

Clever clues: "One with a no-returns policy?" is TAX DODGER.  "Where plays are discussed" is HUDDLE. "Sponge alternative" is THE PILL.

YEA, I finally finished this!  It was a toughie, Y'ALL.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 14, 2018

My time: 5:49, beating the old record by nearly two minutes!  Wow!  What a treat for Pi Day.

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In this tasty puzzle, Jeff Chen mixes it up a bit with some hidden anagrams.  Within four clues are circled letters that, when rearranged, spell out four ingredients to MARINARA sauce.

The clues in question are ZERO IN ON, which contains chopped onion; HOT OATMEAL, which has diced tomato; ARTIFICIAL GRASS, the circled letters of which hide minced garlic; and BARBERSHOP, where you will find mixed herbs.

"Pioneering text adventure game" is ZORK, which premiered in 1977, when I was only a wee lad.  I vaguely remember such a thing, and the cover art rings a bell.  I'm sure I played some variant of it at some point.  It was likely I got eaten by a grue.

Icelandic money is KRONA, but many other places have the same or similarly-spelled currencies.

I may have a heard the name ORSON Bean, but I did not know he was "game show regular."  He was an actor and comedian who was a long-time panelist on "To Tell the Truth."

"Org. with millimeter wave scanners" is TSA.  I had not heard of this name for full body scanners.  By the way, they don't work.

I've heard of STACY Keach, but not the show "Man With a Plan," a modern-era Matt LeBlanc vehicle.

RBI, again.  This time it's "result of a successful squeeze bunt."  A squeeze play is when you sacrifice yourself at bat to get a runner already on third home. 

HESSE, the German state, came up on November 28, 2017.  This time we are given the added information that it contains Wiesbaden, a spa town and the capital.

I learned UZI Gal's last name on October 29, 2017.

BRO, I did not have a lot of trouble with this puzzle!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 13, 2018

My time: 5:45, pretty good!

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Today, Carl Worth has us take a good look at our keyboards by uniting four phrases that start with the names of computer keys: SHIFT GEARS, "ENTER SANDMAN," CONTROL FREAK, and ESCAPE ROOM.  The hint is "Florida island" KEY WEST, as in, the name of the KEY is in the WEST (left) part of the clue.  What a clever type of theme!  Ha, type.

The first answer to this puzzle is AJAR, clued prosaically today as "slightly open."  The same word appeared just yesterday with the far more esoteric clue "'when it's ______' (answer to an old riddle)."  Seems like these should have been reversed.

You might POKE a turtle that's withdrawn into its shell?  What the hell?

For "rod's mate" I put *CONE because I was thinking of eyes, possibly because of yesterday's eye-related theme.  This one is REEL.

Did you know AZALEAS are relatives of rhododendrons?  Me neither.  Also, they're poisonous.

I know Frank ZAPPA, but I don't know "Watermelon in Easter Hay."  The full title is "Playing a Guitar Solo With This Band is Like Trying To Grow a Watermelon in Easter Hay;" it's the penultimate song on the 1979 concept album Joe's Garage.  I'm astounded to read that:
"In their review of the album, Down Beat magazine criticized the song, but subsequent reviewers have championed the song as Zappa's masterpiece, calling it the 'crowning achievement of the album' and 'one of the most gorgeous pieces of music ever produced'...  After Zappa died, "Watermelon in Easter Hay' became known as one of his signature songs, and his son, Dweezil Zappa, later referred to it as "the best solo Zappa ever played.'"
I guess I'm out of touch!

"Product of Yale or Medeco" is LOCK; Medeco is a maker of locks and "security solutions."

For "trendy snack food ____ chips" I put *KALE but it's TARO.

"Capital of the world's largest island country" is JAKARTA.  Apparently Australia is not considered an island country, despite being an island and a country, and Indonesia is considered an island country, despite being a country spread out over several islands (it shares Borneo with Malaysia, and only part of it is on Java).  I call foul!

ORONO is a town in Maine, home to the University of Maine.

This was a fun puzzle!  I was ABEL to get through it mighty quickly.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 12, 2018

My time: 5:09, not bad.

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John R. O'Brien gives us a look at a concept that seems surprisingly abstruse for a Monday, characters with ONE / EYE.  These are: POLYPHEMUS (which I knew right off the bat, but hesitated to put in because of its relative obscurity), SAMMY DAVIS JR, JACK OF SPADES, and BAZOOKA JOE (what's his story, anyway? how'd he lose his eye?  was it a bazooka-related accident??)  I loved this theme --- it's right up my alley: a combination of genres brought together by some random similarity. 

Did you know that MODEL TS were called "tin lizzies?"  Apparently this nickname for all the Ts comes from one race-winning car that was so named.

"Parts with irises" is UVEAS.  The uvea is the pigmented layer of the eye, comprising of the iris, ciliary body, and choroid.  It delivers oxygen to eye tissues.

I really thought ESAI Morales (of La Bamba fame) had come up for me before, but I don't see him in the archives.  Anyway, I often mistakenly think his name is *ERIK Morales, who is a boxer who won titles in four different weight classes.

Likewise I could have sworn that I'd looked up this song "ERES Tú" before, but again, zero results in the archives.  Performed, by the band Mocedades, it won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973.

For "blood-related" I put *HEMIC but it's HEMAL.

I never knew that SUMO was originally part of a Shinto ritual.  But it makes sense.  "The canopy over the sumo ring, called the dohyō, is reminiscent of a Shinto shrine, the officiator is dressed in garb very similar to that of a Shinto priest, and the throwing of salt before a bout is believed to purify the ring."

Totally new to me: that Saint JEROME was known for translating the Bible into Latin.  He did this around 405 AD.

More esoteric fill for a Monday: COZEN, a word that even I, a word guy, was unsure of for "cheat."

ELSA Lanchester was an English actress who appeared in twelve films with her husband, Charles Laughton.

I always get tripped up on architect EERO Saarinen.  I never remember if his name is *EENO or what, which is exactly what I said on September 24, 2017, when he last came up.

So yeah, that's a lot of new or uncertain stuff for a Monday.  There were a few hints I MIST the first time through.  But I could have done VERSO...

Friday, March 9, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 9, 2018

My time: 15:58, not bad for a Friday.

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Neville Fogarty and Doug Peterson serve up a tough but fair themeless.  I found this puzzle a respite from the all-too-tricky Thursday, which I didn't finish.

"Classic arcade game with lots of shooting" is a clever clue for NBA JAM, which started out as a 1993 arcade game by Midway and is now a home console game by Electronic Arts.

I've never heard of Bond girl OLGA Kurylenko.  A Ukrainian-born French model and actress, she played Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace, which I've seen.  But, sadly, the actresses in the Bond films are never as celebrated as the man playing 007.

Apparently, the EDSEL was once promoted with the tagline "The thrill starts with the grille."  But it got a lot of backlash for its vertical grille, which some said looked like a vulva (?) and others said it resembled a toilet seat.

"Speaker units" is OHMS.  An ohm is a unit for electrical resistance.  Speakers act as resisters to electrical impulse, having what audiophiles refer to as impedance.

I totally forgot that a Super 8 is an INN.  I got caught up in the film type.

I love Wallace and GROMIT, but did not know the bit of canon that the latter graduated from Dogwarts University.

Santa ROSA is a town in California with some rather bloody spots on its history.

Did you know TUCSON is nicknamed "The Old Pueblo?"  Me neither.

"Giant competitor" is PADRE.  I thought for the longest time that this referred to the supermarket chain Giant Foods, and there was maybe another supermarket chain called Padre, but no.  It's a sports reference.  The San Francisco Giants are a major league baseball team, and their competitors are the San Diego Padres.  It's not about the New York Giants!  That's football.  I actually have to look this stuff up.

 It's Dickens' Curiosity Shop girl Little NELL, yet again.

Clever clues: "Circular parts" is ADS.  "Rail center?" is MARSH, which I think is because a rail is a marsh bird. "One going against the grain?" is REAPER.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 7, 2018

My time: 8:51, which is pretty good for me.

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In this puzzle, a whole team of contributors -- Natan Last, Andy Kravis, and the Jewish Association Serving the Aging Crossword Class -- focus on PARALLEL PARKING ("driving test challenge") by hiding two types of cars in the Across fill, one directly over the other.  In CLAUDIUS, an Audi lines up neatly with the Ford hidden in UP FOR DISCUSSION.  Next there's DOMINI, as in anno domini, hiding a Mini, which lines up with a foreign-made Opel hiding directly below in IT'S HOPELESS.   And CHRIS MARTIN, appropriately enough, drives a Smart car, parked parallel to the Honda in TV creator SHONDA Rhimes underneath.

Shinzō ABE is the 57th Prime Minister of Japan, serving in that capacity since 2012.

"Controversial food preservative" BHT is a derivative of phenol which is also used to prevent oxidization in fuel oil.  Wikipedia says, "The FDA classifies BHT as generally recognized as safe as a food preservative... There is, however, some debate surrounding a possible link between BHT and cancer risk, asthma, and behavioral issues in children."

The New Orleans Baby Cakes are an AAA (that is, the highest level of play in the minor league) baseball team and affiliate of the Miami Marlins.  Also, they have the silliest name and mascot ever.

Actress Melissa LEO won an Emmy for her role on "Louie" and an Oscar for her role in The Fighter.  She is also known for roles in "All My Children" and "Homicide."

A TENPENNY nail is one that is three inches in length.  I like that "nail" is also used as a clue in this puzzle for ACE and NAB.

I have never heard of, or don't remember, LUCRETIA Mott.  She was an abolitionist, feminist, Quaker, and social reformer who lived 1793-1880.

I had a lot of trouble with "refrain syllables" SHA LA LA.  I wanted, of course, to put *TRA LA LA, and that ate up a bit of time.  Similarly, I had *DUADS for "couples" when it's DYADS.

The COSINE is the measure of the angle on the adjacent side of a right angle.  Its reciprocal is the secant.  That is, one over the cosine is the secant.

"Trident-shaped letters" also puzzled me.  I was like, Ws?  It's PSIS, which is written as Ψ or ψ. 

The Carolina WREN is the state bird of South Carolina.

OTOE has appeared several times in puzzles I've done.  Here they're "early tribe met by Lewis and Clark."

Did you know George Gershwin's "Summertime" is an ARIA? According to Wikipedia, the term aria is "used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrumental or orchestral accompaniment, normally part of a larger work."  So... a song?

Clever clues: "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is ALIASES.  "Cozy places?" is TEAROOMS.  "Hit 100, say" is SPED (I thought it might be some sports stat). 

And that's it.  I'm on TRAC for doing better NEXT time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 6, 2018

My time: 5:58, not too bad.

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Bruce Greig parades a bunch of animals in front of us this Tuesday.  The remarkably specific theme is "phrases that describe a type of gait in animal terms."  There's FROG MARCH, CHICKEN RUN, BEAR CRAWL, "old ragtime dance" TURKEY TROT, and the rather timely GOOSESTEP.

Element #76 is osmium, but something relating to that is OSMIC.  I got them ol' osmic blues again, mama.

Everyone loves the word ABACI!

"Employees at Re/Max and Coldwell Banker" are BROKERS.  Re/Max and Coldwell are both real estate companies.  I thought they were banks, as far as I thought of them, which wasn't much.

Thing I haven't heard of: ACEY-deucey, a betting game in which the player bets whether the next turned card will fall numerically between two previously revealed cards.

"Wind that typically brings warmer air" is a SOUTHER.  I'm not sure very many people actually say this.

Did you know Kareen Abdul-Jabbar was a record 19-time ALL STAR?  Me neither.  I'm not quite sure what the All-Star game is.

"Super G competitors" stumped me.  Super-G is a term referring to super giant slalom SKIERS.

ROONE Arledge, whose name I assumed after the puzzle was Arledge ROONE, was an ABC news and sports broadcaster.  He created "Monday Night Football," "Nightline," and "20.20."

On December 5, 2017, Minnesota's Mesabi Range was described as the Iron Range, because of its large deposits of ORE.

"Balcony section" LOGE came up on November 20, 2017.

Clever clue: "Bit of a draft?" is SIP.

EYE thought this puzzle was a little blah, but the theme was interesting.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: March 5, 2018

My time: 4:40 on the nose.

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I'm back!  I did not complete Sunday's, Saturday's, or Friday's puzzles.  Family were in town.

Lynn Lempel has us try this one on for size: phrases that include clothes.  CITY SLICKER, BLUESTOCKING ("woman having literary interests," from a formerly derisive term for such a group of bookish ladies, Blue Stocking society), STUFFED SHIRT, and SMARTY PANTS.

"First zodiac sign" is ARIES, which, as we have learned, is a fire sign.

I don't think I ever knew that the Prius is made by TOYOTA.

Did you know that Lou GEHRIG was on six winning World Series teams (that is, the same club but six different years)?  Me neither.  I saw "Lou" and words that implied baseball, and wrote his name in.  Spelled wrong.  Then wrong a different way.  Then finally right.

In other sports news, I've never heard of KATIE Ledecky, five-time Olympic gold and fourteen-time World Champion swimmer.  She holds a lot of records.

I have heard of Sam SNEAD (from early "Peanuts" comics), but I didn't know he was called Slammin' Sammy!

The name GAYLE King means nothing to me, but she has been the co-anchor of "CBS This Morning" since 2012.  I don't watch morning television programs.

The clue "fierce flyers of myth" isn't very apt for ROCS.  The dominant characteristic of ROCS is their immense size, not their ferocity.

Dev PATEL shows up in crosswords so much for both his first and last names, I now know him right off the bat!

Clever clue: "What you might come across at a river?" is BRIDGE.

I'm not GAGA about this puzzle.  There's no capper or reason for the theme, and the clues are pretty straightforward, but at least I got through it fairly quickly.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thursday's crossword puzzle solved: March 1, 2018

My time: 18:22.

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Timothy Polin has a way with WORDs, but not a way that is easy for me to appreciate.  First, he plays off a classic letter puzzle, WORD SQUARE, that is something I have seen before but never taken much interest in, and didn't necessarily attach that name to.  Using that as his hint, Polin makes a rebus where the word WORD is placed in a box and read that way across, but --- and here's the fiendishly clever part --- reading down they're "parsed differently," as either W or D!!  The themed entries read across as FIGHTING [WORD]S, [WORD] PROCESSOR, and PUT IN A [WORD] FOR.  Down, they connect with "things at the ends of dogs' legs:" PADS or PAWS; "how some jokes are delivered:" WRYLY or DRYLY; and "entertaining, in a way:" WINING or DINING.  Dang, that's clever.  Too clever for my blood, even!

Some of the clues are a little too abstruse for my tastes, too.  POPE is clued as "leader in white," which I concede is fair but I found tough.  And "Mao Zedong or Mahatma Gandhi" are ICONS?

"Castle with famous steps" is a clever clue, or I would have been tickled by it had I heard of IRENE Castle, the ballroom dancer and actor it refers to.

I've never heard of ARAL Karakum, a desert in Kazakhstan.  Not to be confused with the Karakum Desert, in Turkmenistan.

"No mas!" isn't the famous Roberto Duran cry in Spanish, but actually telling you it's not the plural of ma.  It's PAS, as in all pa, no ma.

I love ANYHOO for "moving right along..."

The TRIASSIC, the geological period between the relatively recent Jurassic and positively ancient Permian, is when mammals first appeared.

The silly word ENHALO appeared February 15, as "put a ring on."  Here it's "treat as a saint."

New to me department: the word PASEO, meaning a leisurely evening stroll.

Did you know that EUROPE is the blue area on a Risk board?  Me neither.  In fact, I see a lot of Risk boards online with all kinds of colors.  But I guess the classic board is Europe blue, Africa red, North America brown to yellow, Asia green.

UNTUNE for "disharmonize."  Boo to both.

Instead of *POD or *PED, the answer to foot in Latin is PES.  That's the singular nominative in the language itself, you uncultured Philistine.  No corrupted prefixes for us!

"Tee shot goof" is HOOK. That's a ball that goes outward the wrong direction and then curves back toward the golfer.

"Annual cinéma award" CESAR appeared November 19, 2017.

Clever clue: "Where a bowl is set" is GRIDIRON.

This was a tough puzzle.  I nearly gave up, but with one last DO OR DIE effort, I managed to eke out a win.  That Timothy Polin is one clever QAT.

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 19, 2018

My time: 5:54 . -- For those snowflake liberals among us who cringe at the free and proud exercise of the Second Amendment (motto: the O...