Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 30, 2018

My time: 6:21, average.


Bruce Haight brings out some fresh underwear puns with today's puzzle.  "Underwear for judges" is of course LEGAL BRIEFS, "underwear for Frisbee enthusiasts" is DISC JOCKEYS, "underwear for beginners" is AMATEUR BOXERS, "underwear for actors" is MOVIE SHORTS, and "underwear for tycoons" is CASH DRAWERS.

Unlike some wordplay crammed into a puzzle (I know it's not easy), these are all legitimately funny bits of wordplay.  I solved with a smile on my face.

Until I got to that damn middle left section, which I just couldn't get my head around.  It added at least one minute thirty to my time.  Although there were no unknowns there, I just couldn't make anything fit.  Mostly because for "any living thing" I insisted on putting the stupid *ORGANICS and not ORGANISM.

Anyhoo.  Underwear!  And more.

I know who ARIANA Grande is, but couldn't name any of her songs.  Apparently she released the albums Yours Truly and My Everything, both of which went to #1.

Another singer of note is TEENA Marie, whose biggest hit was "Lovergirl" in 1985.  Not my thing.  Her nickname is the Ivory Queen of Soul.

Did you know ANTWERP is a global diamond powerhouse?  According to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, "Antwerp and diamonds are inseparable. Antwerp has been the capital of the world diamond trade for more than five centuries and is widely recognized as the leader in the industry today, in more ways than one."  Also the site of a 2003 diamond heist to the tune of $100 million.

"Relating to a part of the pelvis" is ILIAC, from ilium, the uppermost part of the hip bone.

I'm not familiar with the language of sports.  A victory in an away game is a ROAD WIN, apparently.

Also, I'm only vaguely familiar with ARA Parseghian, who played football for the Cleveland Browns and then coached at Notre Dame, turning them from perennial losers into a winning team.  He racked up the third-most wins of a coach in any school's history.  1964-1974 was known at Notre Dame as "the Era of Ara."

ST. L for "Cardinals, on scoreboards" appeared on April 5.

Actor Milo O'SHEA debuted January 8.

SAY, that's a lot of newish and/or trouble spots for a Monday!  HUMPH.  But WHOA, I finally did it!  YES.  AAH.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 28, 2018

My time: 19:31.


Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb team up to construct this impressive themeless.  Just look at that quality fill: ESPERANTO, POST-TRUTH, PIXY STIX, TRILOBITE, I'M A GONER, SEXY BEAST, PROXIES, STONE TOOL, OMEGA DOG.

Then there's the rest:

Twyla THARP is a choreographer who uses pop music: the Beach Boys ballet "Deuce Coupe," and the dance musicals "The Times They Are A-Changin'," "Movin' Out," and "Come Fly With Me."  Her first name would be better fill.

A new term to me is the LAG shot in pool, the shot that determines who gets to break.

Fu-HSI (note the obsolete Wade-Giles romanization; should be Fuxi) is a mythological hero, credited with creating humanity, plus the skills of writing, fishing, hunting, and cooking.  So, a bit of an over-achiever, then.

According to the puzzle, AGRA, Uttar Pradesh, inspired the sultan's palace in the animated movie of Aladdin.  I assume that would be Taj Mahal, so not really the city itself inspiring the palace, as the clue says.

SIMONE Weil was a French philosopher who allied herself with the Anarchists and the working class, but later turned to mysticism.

ACER has had a few taglines over the years, like "Easy is Acer" and "Empowering people," but they also have "Explore beyond limits."

I find the clue "early Macy's Day Parade balloon designer" to be amusing.  Surely we all know Tony SARG, early Macy's Day Parade balloon designer!  He was German-American, and the father of modern puppetry in America.  He made several historically important animated films as well.

EDD Byrnes, star of "77 Sunset Strip," sure spelled his name funny.  He was also in Grease.

Another actor I don't know: RAMI MALEK, Emmy-winning lead of "Mr. Robot."

The novel Of Mice and Men, which I have read three times, takes place in SALINAS Valley, which I had long forgotten, if indeed I ever retained it for more than a fleeting second.

"Tosspot" is the clue for SPONGE.  A tosspot is a drunk who tosses the pots back.  Another newish word is EVERTS.  To evert something is to turn it inside-out.  Like a starfish does with its own stomach!

T-TOP has come up several times now.  Apparently the early Pontiac Grand Prix models used to have them.

The REBELS were mentioned as the team of Ole Miss way back on August 30, 2017.

Musical mark SEGNO, meaning to be repeated, came up on October 21, 2017.

Clever clues: "Crude craft" is OILER.  "Piano piece" is LEG.  "Part of a fault line?" is MEA.

Well, this puzzle was quite a MIX of challenging and fun.   I did NOT DO as well as I'd liked, but I VEAL okay about it.  NO PUN INTENDED?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 27, 2018

My time: 12:27, not too shabby.


A quite nice themeless by David Steinberg this Friday.  There's some good fill here, like ETHEREAL, LOSE SLEEP OVER, BIKE STAND, ETHICAL DILEMMAS, CABLE TELEVISION, and I CAN TAKE A HINT ("possible reply to someone's tactful remark").  I was very tickled by some winking word play in the corners: SEETHING ("ready to explode") is joined with SEE THINGS ("hallucinate"); and in the southeast, BEER MONEY is joined with the somewhat similar EYE CANDY.

I'm not quite as enamored of PATNESS ("smooth talker's quality"), or the singular RAMONE ("any of four punk rock bandmates").

"Wild grp." stymied me for a bit until I realized it must be a sports team, an NHL team to be exact.  I even remembered it was the Minnesota Wild.

I had no idea that a PERSIAN cat was known as a Shirazi in the Mideast, but it seemed like the obvious answer.

The answer to "dance music subgenre" was too short for techno, so I needed crossfill to put ELECTRO, which I've never heard of, being the cranky old fuddy-duddy that I am.

I wanted to put *HOC after "ad," but it's ad REM.  That means "relevant to the discussion at hand," or "in a straightforward manner."  Also in Latin phrases I don't have at my fingertips, ESTO perpetuum means "let it be everlasting," like a caramel.

HALFTONE is a photo technique in which an apparently solid image is printed with an arrangement of dots.  Like in comic books or newspapers.  It's essentially a form of optical illusion, because our brain doesn't register the white space between the dots.

For "showy ballet leap" I put *PAS DE DEUX at first, because I'm a lowbrow, uncultured buffoon.  That isn't a leap at all.  The right answer is ENTRECHAT, which is when a dancer jumps into the air and beats their legs by changing the position of their legs and feet to the front or back of each other.  Thus the "intertwining" of the French name --- the legs look braided.

I know TREPAN as in drilling a hole in the skull to get to the delicious goo inside, but apparently it's also a tool to bore a mine shaft.

Do you know what I don't know much about, besides classical music, ballet, and sports?  Cars.  The Studebaker AVANTI is a luxury coupe that was produced from 1962-63.   Fewer than 6000 were made in total.

University town AMES, Iowa has long been in my mental microfiche, but I didn't know it was in Story County.

ODE appears near weekly, but I had forgotten that this poem form is divided into sections, the first of which is called a strophe.  This followed by the antistrophe and epode.

Because of its earlier appearance on March 15, I was not baffled by T-TOP as the answer to "Pontiac Trans Am option!"

The cassis cocktail KIR appeared on January 5.

Clever clues: "Do high-level banking?" is AVIATE.  "Set off" is deliciously vague --- it's TRIP, as in an alarm. "Book of legends" is ATLAS.  "Ratings org." is EPA --- that's not so much clever as nearly unfairly tricky.  "One getting hit after hit?" is STONER.

That's the end of my observations and explanations.  I really enjoyed this puzzle's long fill and vague cluing.  And now, time to LEAVE.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 26, 2018

My time: 12:18, close to my record but but no cigar.


Alex Eaton-Salners connects us with a meta puzzle, in which the number of a clue, and another answer in the puzzle, make up the clue.  Examples:

22 Across, "without stopping," is ENDLESSLY.  Right across from that the clue: "22 Across, with respect to this answer's location" (which is 24 Across).  This means that ENDLESSLY is defined as "24 ________."  It's 24/SEVEN.

46 Across is "in fairness," EQUALLY.  Next to it is this clue: "46 Across, with respect to this answer's location" (50 Across).  Thus EQUALLY is defined as "50 _______."  It's 50/FIFTY.

Similarly, NAP is 40 (Across) WINKS, while BOGEY is 1 (Across) OVER.

Brilliant idea, with extremely precise construction, since the linked answers are so close to one another.  I really enjoyed this puzzle.  I might even have gotten a speed record on this one, except for the northwest corner which I spent at least two extra minutes on.

The main problem was OVER, in the northwest corner.  When I got to the BOGEY theme clue, I didn't yet understand how the theme worked, and I kept wanting to put *FOUR for the answer at 1 Across.  My thinking was that if you got a BOGEY on 5 (because it's at 5 Across), the other answer would be par, in this case four.  I hadn't quite gotten the "previous answer is defined as [number of the clue] plus this new word" idea yet.

As for the rest of the fill...

Today I learned that pyriform (sometimes spelled piriform) means "shaped like a PEAR."  From now on whenever one might normally say "this is going pear-shaped," I'm going to say, "this is going pyriform."

Also in the northwest corner is ANSE Bundren, the name of the father in As I Lay Dying, which I read about 35 years ago.  He is an awful, lazy, selfish man.  Interestingly, this name appeared on November 25, 2017, as the real-life head of the Hatfield clan.

We all know William the Conqueror, but we don't all know that his dad was ROBERT I, Duke of Normandy.  His bastard son William succeeded him as Duke at the tender age of 8, and would go on to do great things.

I've never heard of NARITA airport, Tokyo's international airport.  It's named after the city in which it's located.

Rembrandt's name is usually spelled van Rijn, not RYN, right?

NIMBI are large greyish-black rain or storm clouds.  Geez, get your clouds right, Michael.

Did you know ESTONIANS are "citizens of the only country that relies significantly on online voting in elections?"  Are you ashamed that you didn't?

"Prefix with law or label" is ECO-?  "Ecolabel" appeared April 14, and I didn't think it was a thing then either.  ECOlaw?   Are we just adding the prefix to anything?  I enjoyed my ecosandwich.  It was made with dolphin safe tuna.

I know who Scottish pirate Captain William KIDD was, but not the legend that his treasure is buried on Oak Island.  But it may not be.  Indeed, the Oak Island mystery has many theories as to what treasure may be buried there, and whose, if any is at all.

INGA Swenson is an actress known from her roles in "Soap" and "Benson."  Interestingly, even though the latter is a spinoff of "Soap," she played different characters on the two shows.

I don't yet have my Monopoly properties memorized.  I know.  It's pitiful.  Anyway, the three yellows are Marvin Gardens, Atlantic Avenue, and VENTNOR Avenue.

I guessed "Debussy's La" MER pretty easily, but I'm not familiar with the work.

Never heard of LENE Hau, Danish physicist who apparently stopped the movement of a beam of light with her arcane eldritch powers.

I've seen IDA many times in the puzzle (Ida Lupino, short of Idaho, a Polish film), but I don't believe it's been clued as MT. IDA, the Greek peak on which Zeus was hidden as an infant.  He was hiding from his baby-eating dad, Cronus, and fed by the goal Amalthea.

Gum wall city San LUIS Obispo last appeared September 30, 2017.  Additional previously-learned fact: it is home to Cal Poly.

I could probably count the number of KIA models I know on one hand; the Rio is not one of them.  It's a cheap subcompact.  For "Rio producer," I was trying to think of Spanish words for "water" or "lake" that might fit.

Bell Atlantic acquisition GTE appeared on November 24, 2017.

Australian boot UGG appeared December 19, 2017.  It's clued as "Australian boot brand" but that's not technically correct; the company Ugg was founded in California.  The item, an ugg, no capital, is an Australian style of footwear, not a brand.

Clever clues: "Decked out?' is DEALT.  "Bolt of lightning speed" is USAIN.  "What might follow suit?" is TRIAL.

Well, this puzzle was overall a PLEASER.  I really ran through it quickly, but for that block at the top left, which was a huge SNAG.  OH, FUDGE!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 25, 2018

My time: 8:33, a few minutes faster than average but not great.


Adam G. Perl shows that he KNOWS EVERY ANGLE by having four shaded answers depict themselves.  Hidden in each corner of the fill is a word for a type of angle: OBT/U/S/E, RIG/HT, ACU/T/E, and --- making me relearn elementary geometry --- R/E/F/LEX.  Those words are formed in the grid across, down, and diagonally, as needed to illustrate the kinds of angles they are.  (Right, for example, is hidden in the down and then across, no diagonals, while obtuse falls down and then diagonally wide, as an obtuse angle does.)

Frightfully clever, these maths wallahs!  I'm impressed.

On to the fill!  Ugh, sports.  "QB's stat" is ATT.  This is short for attempted passes.  And later on in the Downs, we're treated to another unpleasingly blunt clue: "QB's stat."  Yes, again.  This time it's INT, which even I know is interceptions.

For "Big Apple subway line, for short" I put *MTA and even considered *LIE (a road, not a subway) but it's LEX, short for Interborough Rapid Transit Company Lexington Avenue Line.  I didn't really process the "line" part of the clue.  And even if I had, this would have been one of the slow points of the puzzle; I lived in New York City and this didn't occur to me.  Once again the New York Times puzzle is a bit too fond of its environs.

I knew that Diana RIGG was a Bond girl in her day, but I couldn't have told you the name of the character (not that the puzzle asked for it).  She played Tracy Bond, the only woman the suave superspy ever married, and who was later shot dead by an assassin.

A newish word for me is ALIENEE, one to whom property is transferred.  Also NATANT for "swimming," but I got that from the French cognate.

I liked a lot of the fill this time around.  CASE FILE, ORESTES, SKOR, BASE TEN, ANGIE'S LIST, BUY-INS.  There was some esoteric stuff that I knew right off, too, like OGEE, Gustav HOLST, and SFPD ("Dirty Harry's org").

Tulsa school ORU last came up on March 20.

AT. NO. for "periodic table fig." appeared October 10, 2017, and I didn't like it much then either.

Clever clues: "Kings' guards may be taken in it" is NBA DRAFT.  "It's a gift" is GAB (I kept thinking *GAG, like gag gift, but knew it didn't quite work). "Family guy?" is MADE MAN.  "Concerns for many srs." is SATS --- I was thinking about the elderly kind of seniors and tried to make *SSNS fit.  "Red letters?" is USSR.  And "'towering' regulatory grp.?" is FAA.

This was a great puzzle.  I SPENT a lot more time on it than I wanted to, but I loved the theme and the fill.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 24, 2018

My time: 6:51, faster than my Tuesday average.


I haven't been as delighted with a theme in a long time as I have with this one by Peter Gordon.  Some famous people are clued up: BRET EASTON ELLIS, CUBA GOODING JR, and IDRIS ELBA --- all three terrific fill on their own --- proving with the punchline capper that John Donne was wrong when he said "NO MAN IS AN ISLAND."

Extremely clever theme, terrific aha moment when you get the joke, just beautiful fill.  Plus there was some good non-theme fill like BRAZILIANS, DR. MOM, and HD TV SET.  An all around exciting puzzle, really.

I've seen and maybe even played, once, the game Rummikub, an Israeli game in which numbered TILES are played in sets or runs.

Here's how little I know about basic world geography: I've heard of GDANSK all my life, but never stopped to learn that it's a Baltic Sea port in Poland.  It has good crossword structure.

"What's your sleep number?" I had to remember that tagline to have the penny drop on "company with numbered sheep plush toys."  It's SERTA, of adjustable mattress fame.

The eldest of Chekhov's "Three Sisters?"  That's OLGA, the workhorse of the family.  She takes care of the two younger sisters, Irina and Masha.

I can't say I've listened to a lot of Patti Page, and her song "I CRIED" ("it was winter when you told me you were leaving") is unknown to me.  She was known as "The Singin' Rage, Miss Patti Page."  She released three #1 hits between 1950 and 1953: "All My Love (Bolero)," "I Went to Your Wedding," and "(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window."

Did you know that LACE is the 13th anniversary gift?  Me neither.  Actually I detest clues like this. It's not something people generally know, and it's not clever, and it's not guessable.

Bloggers who ride bikes all over creation may not have been briefly stymied by TOECLIP, as I was.  I guess they're just devices that fit your toe on a bike pedal, like a shoe, so your foot doesn't slip off.

The 1971 Pan American games were held in CALI, Colombia.  The USA won.  Yaaayyyy!

I've never seen a production for "Cats."  The character that sings "Memory" is GRIZABELLA, "the Glamour Cat." Interestingly, she was not a character in the book of poems, as her part was considered too sad for children.  Eliot's widow Valerie gave the poem to Andrew Lloyd Webber and he included the character in his musical.

In the crossword's quest to include every single California city beginning with some form of "San" or "Santa," we now have Santa ANA, the county seat of the O.C. and the fourth-safest city in the US according to Forbes.

Emmy-winning actress SELA Ward last appeared on a very recent Tuesday: April 10.

Clever clues: "Sessions of Congress" is PETE.  "They're likely to get into hot water" is TEA BAGS.  "Hammered" is LIT (coulda been *HIT).

Well, that's ENDED for the NONCE.  SEE you next time, BROS.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 23, 2018

My time: 4:51.


Lynn Lempel made this puzzle, in which we "lead off" with phrases that have GO FIRST.  That is, they have synonyms of "go" contained in their first letters: SCRAMBLED EGGS, LEAVENED BREAD, SHOOT HOOPS.

I didn't notice the theme until I got to the capper, but after that it did help with one answer I'm not too familiar with: SCATTER RUG, another term for a throw rug.

It's not a very funny or engaging theme, but, you know, it's okay.

My time was slowed by some poor guesses on my part.  For "Nintendo game consoloe" I put *NES but it's WII.  For "cut and paste text, e.g." I foolishly put *COPY but of course it's EDIT.

Irene DUNNE was in Cimarron, and I saw her in The Awful Truth with Cary Grant, but I don't remember her.

I know Johnny MATHIS, but not his song "Chances Are."  He's not exactly a fixture on my turntable.

Steve MCQUEEN, not the action actor, directed 12 Years a Slave.

Bark beetles bore into different kinds of trees, but there are at least two species named after ELMS, the European elm bark beetle and the large elm bark beetle.

LAURA Linney is an actress who has been on "The Big C," "John Adams," Kinsey, and "Ozark," which latter I've seen some of.

Suffragist Carrie Chapman CATT last appeared November 3, 2017.

Two actresses, a singer, and a director make up pretty much the entire list of troublesome spots today.  I guess I'm not a Hollywood celebrity superfan.  EAU well.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: April 22, 2018

My time: 24:34.


Extra E's and missing E's are the subject of today's theme, brainchild of Ross Trudeau.  In the themed phrases, one E is taken away and moved elsewhere.  The resulting answer is clued as read, with ostensibly humorous results.  So we have STARES AND STRIPS ("makes eye contact before undressing?") from stars and stripes, FATHER IN ONE'S CAPE ("parent wearing your Superman costume?") from feather in one's cap, JETE PROPELLED PLAN ("ballet choreography?") from jet-propelled plane, HAD LESS HORSE MANE (ha!), and so on.

The theme ends with a real clunker, as LEAST BUT NOT LAST ("like the digit 0 in 2018?") does not differ a great deal from last but not least, like the other clues do; it just transposes the words rather than creating a whole new absurd scenario.  I think Trudeau should have put this one on the back burner until he could find a better fit for the final themed answer.

As for the rest of the fill:

TACH ("RPM indicator" is short for tachymeter. This is a scale found around the rim of a watch that can be used to compute a speed based on travel time or measure distance based on speed.

"Party Up (Up in Here)" is a rap song by DMX.  Not my cup of tea.

The Z in SEA OOZE for "ocean buildup" slowed me down, as I couldn't think what might fit in there.  Who says SEA OOZE?

I know the Richard Gere movie DR. T and the Women, but want to note that this same fill appeared just yesterday.

For the three-square answer of "early Chinese dynasty" I considered Qin, Han, and Sui, but it's WEI, 4th- through 6th-century period marked by warring clans and the establishment of Buddhism.  Later broken into the Eastern and Western WEI dynasties.

For "FEMA offering I wanted to put *COT but it's AID.

I've heard of one of the two actress SALLYS: Sally Field, but not Sally Hawkins.  I don't believe I've ever seen her in anything.

"Iowa senator elected in 2014" is republican Joni ERNST.  She is the first woman to represent Iowa in the United States Congress and the first female combat veteran elected to the United States Senate.

We've all heard of ETTA James, but we can be forgiven for not immediately associating her with her Grammy-nominated 1967 album Tell Mama.

"Kegler's org" confused the hell out of me.  Who or what is Kegler?  It turns out that a kegler is an old-fashioned, German-derived word for bowler, so the org. in question is the PBA.

The brightest star in Cygnus is DENEB, the tail of the swan.  It's also the head of the Northern Cross.  It's also part of the Summer Triangle.  DENEB is a popular star!  Everyone wants him to come to their party.

Italian journalist ORIANA Fallaci was a remarkable figure.  She interviewed many famous people.  She also warned of the Islamic invasion of Europe and wrote books critical of Islam.  She had to wear a chador to interview the Ayatollah Khomeini, but during the interview took it off and then called him a "tyrant" and the chador "a stupid medieval rag."  She was also shot three times by Mexican soldiers during the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre.  Fascinating!

I had trouble with the rather abstruse word ALOP for "cockeyed."

Selma director AVA DuVernay last appeared January 17, and at least once before that.  I don't seem to be able to remember her.

Auto repair chain MAACO came into view on September 4, 2017.

I was at a loss for "Wall St. worker."  I put *CPA, but it's ARB, short for arbitrageur, which last appeared October 11, 2017.

Clever clue: "Widening of the mouth?" is DELTA.  "Rarity in a Polish name?" is VOWEL.  "Hives, e.g." is NESTS --- I wanted to put *RASH. "Tip of the tongue?" is -ESE.

Whew!  That was a lot of work.  Every day I try to learn new things, and sometimes some of it STYX.  And now, I REST.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 21, 2018

My time: 11:30, a new record by four minutes!  Dang.


Daniel Nierenberg constructed this themeless featuring a nice amount of fresh fill, like ESTATE SALE, GENE THERAPY ("procedure that targets mutations"), EROTIC NOVEL, GAY MARRIAGE (""subject of the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges"), BUBBLE TEA, I NEED HELP, SHADOWBOX ("punch the air"), and SEE ATTACHED ("common two-word email").

I didn't know that "NCIS" was a spinoff of "JAG."  I haven't watched more than two minutes, tops, of either one.

I remember NEHI soda, but I didn't know that it was originally the name of the NEHI Corporation, which changed its name to the Royal Crown Company after its popular RC Cola.  It's now owned by Dr Pepper/Snapple.  There are no little guys in business any more.

The classic Pontiac GTO, which appeared on October 9, 2017, is clued here as "Motor Trend's 1968 Car of the Year."

"Windows alternative" is OSX, the Apple operating system, which is now called macOS.  I kind of wanted the answer to be door.

Rare word alert!  EGEST means "to expel, as from the body," as opposed to ingest.  And also, BRAE is a Scots word for a hillside along a river, or as it's clued here, "landform near a loch."

Never heard of CRIS Carter, NFL wide receiver for several teams and later a football analyst.

In some Greek origin myths, EROS is one of the primordial deities, coming into being after chaos, the earth, and hell.  It's clued here as "fourth god to exist," but I don't know how official such rankings are.  The ancient sources are rather contradictory.  Eros came along around the time of Nyx and Erberus.

Did you know a Turkish LIRA is equivalent to 100 kurus?  Me neither.

The oddly-spelled Pistons point guard ISIAH Thomas last appeared way, waaayyy back on August 28, 2017.

Clever clues: "Sites for some touchdowns" is HELIPORTS.  "Bud drinker?" is BEE.  "Like some blankets and arguments" is HEATED.  "Rock sample?" is DEMO TAPE.  "Body image, for short" is TAT.

And that's all the fill I had trouble with or comments about.  I thought this was a great puzzle.  Fun clues, fresh fill, tough to get a toehold in at first but not too challenging.  The solver RESTS, at last ON TOP of his game.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 20, 2018

My time: 11:35, not too bad!


A Friday themeless by Joel Fagliano with some quality rare fill: E-COMMERCE ("Net sales" --- a pun!), DEEP STATE, EAZY-E, DECK CHAIR, END OF AN ERA, GLOM, HIS 'N' HERS, WINEGLASS ("household item usually stored upside down") and others.

Oh, and it's apparently the TWENTY-FIVE / THOUSANDTH puzzle published in the New York Times, but I guess that isn't interesting enough to construct a theme around.

"Fastener with a crosspiece" is T-BOLT.

The oddly-spelled APOLO OHNO, eight-time Olympic medalist in speed skating, was a big name in the news in 2002.  His last Olympics was in Vancouver in 2010, where he won two bronze.

THIRSTY is clued here as "desperately in need of approval, in modern slang."  According to all the post-millennial-penned crap I've read on Buzzfeed and its ilk, that word means "horny for men."  But this Merriam-Webster article has a good overview of the word's use.

"Under the specified word, in a reference book" is the definition of SUB VOCE, not to be confused with sotto voce.

I couldn't have told you that KAREEM Abdul-Jabbar has the number 33, or that it was retired by the Lakers in 1989.

"Prefix with -genetic" is EPI-, meaning on, over, before, or near.  Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression (active versus inactive genes) that do not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence.

I don't think I've ever encountered the mnemonic "Eat An Apple As A Nighttime Snack" for the names of the CONTINENTS.  It's laughably useless, since the list itself is so short you may as well memorize them rather than those seven words.  Why not "Aryans Apply Eugenics Always, North And South?"

I'm familiar with Paul KLEE'S work, but apparently not enough to recognize the names of his paintings Cat and Bird and The Goldfish.

An otter's den is apparently a HOLT, also called a couch or sometimes a hover.

I know who Tycho BRAHE is.  Here he is clued as Johannes Kepler's "contemporary and assistant."  But it's the other way around!  Kepler was hired to be Brahe's assistant!  Tycho died very soon after engaging Kepler's services, and Kepler went on to steal Tycho's work.

Not being a geography buff, I couldn't say what cities are on the Elbe.  Apparently HAMBURG is.

Clever clues: "Class struggle?" is TEST.  "Put in play?" is CAST.  "Pocket of the Mideast" is PITA BREAD.  "Back now after going out?" is RELIT.

YEESH, that's a lot of new and uncertainly-learned material! Still, I didn't do too badly, all things considered.  A good challenge, with nice fresh fill and careful cluing. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 19, 2018

My time: 11:19, very close to my record!


Todd Gross plays with numbers in this puzzle.  To fully understand the theme clues, you must COUNT THE SQUARES.  Thus, "he wrote this many symphonies" is BEETHOVEN because the answer has nine squares, and he wrote nine symphonies.  "It borders this many other states" is MISSOURI, which borders eight, as many as the letters in its name.  And so on with MARK SPITZ, who won nine Olympic gold medals, and there are nine letters in his name; and an ARACHNID has eight letters and "this many legs" when you count the letters.

Clever theme, recursive, good aha moment, very pleasing unusual fill.  Great job.  10/10, A+ cruciverbalism, would solve again.

I'm only vaguely familiar the phrase TO A TURN, meaning "exactly right."  It's used mainly in cooking.  I thought it might be the original, full version of the phrase to a T, but apparently the origins of that one are not fully known. It is perhaps short for "to a tittle."

I've heard of choreographer Alvin AILEY, though I mistakenly put his name in as *AILEN at first.

Most of New York State's flag is BLUE, which is a pretty obvious fill even if you don't know what it looks like.  An interesting fact is that until 1901 it was buff yellow.

RINSO is a brand of soap that was founded in 1908 in the UK. It was one of the first mass-marketed soap powders.  It was advertised on the radio with the taglines "Rinso white, Rinso bright" and "contains Solium, the sunlight ingredient!" It is still sold today by Unilever in Asian markets.  It was mentioned ("I'm Rinso white" in the song "I'm Black/Ain't Got No" from the musical Hair.

"Chocolaty breakfast cereal" is OREO-OS, which is good crossword fill.  So is ULULATES ("grieves loudly").

I don't know the name of actor KEENAN Wynn, but I certainly know of him; he played Colonel "Bat" Guano in one of the best films ever made, Dr. Strangelove.

Did you know NOV. is National Adoption Month?  Me neither.

I know the work of Roz CHAST very well, but I couldn't have told you that she wrote a book called What I Hate: From A to Z.  Though I'm sure I took note of it when it was first published.

I also know Ogden NASH, of course, and his work.  "In the Vanities / No one wears panities" is a charming couplet called "Theatrical Reflection."

"Ca++ or Fe++++" is over my head, but it's IONS, which are of course non-zero atoms or molecules.  In these cases, I guess, electron positive.

Yet another FROZEN question.  The name of the fictional kingdom where it takes place is Arendelle.

I figured "Arabic leader" was the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, but I put *ALEF instead of ALIF.

Actor ESAI Morales last came up pretty recently, March 12, and I got his name right this time!

"Narrow waterway" RIA last trickled by on October 24, 2017.

Clever clues: "It's only half due" is UNO.  "Two in the news" is ITEM.  "One hailed on Broadway?" is CAB.

That's a pretty big handful of new material, yet my time was pretty speedy!  I'm just a STEP away from a new record.  OIL try to go faster next time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 18, 2018

My time: 11:05, very average.  They can't all be gems.


Perhaps one reason I didn't solve this one very fast is that I didn't understand the theme.  Even when the grid was complete, I didn't see it.  Peter A. Collins and Bruce Haight constructed this puzzle, which claims that the Screamin' Jay Hawkins classic "I PUT A SPELL ON YOU" hints at what happens three times in its solution.

I didn't see it.  I don't see it.  I'm looking for it.  Nothing.  Finally, hours after the solve, I see it.  The letter string H-E-X appears directly over the letters Y-O-U.  TOOTH EXTRACTION ("it creates an opening at the dentists' office") is over EMPTY OUT.  MATH EXAM ("it might involve x, y, and z") is positioned over JOYOUSLY.  And CORN CHEX is on the right edge, neatly sitting atop the YOU in the Hawkins song title.

So, no aha moment.  In fact, I'd have been more engaged and impressed if each HEX and YOU had been shaded or circled, and then the song title had been clued more vaguely ("much-covered song hinted at in this puzzle's shaded squares"), to give it a sort of punchline.  As it is I feel a little like someone who finished a run and then was told that he lost a race he didn't know he had entered.

Anyhoo.  We also get MOO MOO and BAA in this puzzle, so it isn't all highbrow.

New to me is Frank NITTI, Al Capone's right hand man, nicknamed the Enforcer.  He later became head of the Chicago Outfit when Al went to the big house for cheating the feds out of their vig.

You don't need to know much about Bobby ORR to write his name in when told he's a player whose number rhymed with his jersey.

Pachelbel's Canon in D appeared a while back, but now we are told that its key is D MAJ.

"Colorful, conical candy on a stick" sounds like cotton candy, but here what is wanted is ASTRO POP.  Not a fixture of my personal childhood but apparently a fan favorite for many, these are transparent tricolor lollipops designed to look like rockets.  Launched in 1963, they were created by two former rocket scientists who had worked on the space program.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I thought that the TACHYON was a science fiction invention, not a theoretical particle posited by professional physicists in 1967.  The special property of these particles is that as they gain energy, they lose speed; their slowest possible speed is the speed of light (186,000 miles per second).

I couldn't stop thinking about elephants after reading "lump on a trunk," but of course it's BURL.

Yes, a new word for me: NON-U, British slang for a Cockney or any other yobbo not in the upper crusts.  I kept reading it as one two-syllable word, rhyming with beaucoup.

Clever clues: "Ones making a case for drinking?" is SODAS.  "One who talks on the phone a lot?" is SIRI.  "Kingdom that's spread throughout the world" is ANIMALIA.

YOW.  This was a difficult one, with not much of a reward.  I mean, I admire the way the fill is arranged, but I've SCENE more fun puzzles. OH YES.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 17, 2017

My time: 6:49.


Wren Schultz (clever pseudonym of Will Shortz??) must have put a lot of thought into this puzzle, in which every answer in the entire grid is an alternating consonant-VOWEL pattern.

As I've mentioned, I'm quite bad at geography, so I don't recall offhand that the ODER River serves as a border between Germany and Poland.  (German joke: "What's that awful ODER?" "Oh, that's Poland.")

Some of today's fill stands out for its unique flavor: UNEXAMINED! KEROSENE! POPEMOBILE! NIXON ERA!

I didn't know that ERIC / BANA was in Munich.  It also features Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush.

Despite my sports ignorance, I have indeed heard of Cy Young winner OREL Hershiser, but don't ask me to spell his last name.

I know all about DEVO, but I had don't think I every heard their red ziggurat hats referred to as "energy domes."

Probably due to the prevalence of consonant-vowel words in crosswords, there was a ton of previous fill this time around:

"Hurled weapon" BOLA was tossed at us on October 7, 2017.

The AZORES haven't appeared such that I've charted, but several of their islands have.

PALOMA Picasso, designer of perfumes and fashion items, was limned on January 1 of this year.

Easy-to-grip kitchen tool maker OXO was showcased January 12.

Baseball Commissioner Emeritus Bud SELIG appeared February 2.

Food thickener AGAR was served up on December 28, 2017.

Clever clue: "One making an ewe turn?" is RAM.

For sheer audacity and cleverness, TEN out of ten on this theme.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 16, 2018

My time: 4:41.


David Woolf has our eyes crossed with his punnish theme of EYE CONTACT.  The four theme answers feature two words with "I"s that touch, one at the end of the first word, the other beginning the second word.  That is: SUNNI ISLAM, S.E.T.I. INSTITUTE, and ANTI-IMMIGRATION ("supporting nativist policies" --- wonder how much time went into massaging that wording just right?).

Last is SKI INSTRUCTOR, "one teaching pizza slices and S-turns" --- terms I recalled only vaguely at best.  The theme helped with this one.

I often have trouble with the names of moon vehicles.  LEM stands for Lunar Excursion Module, now called only Lunar Module, but still pronounced lem.

I can't say I've watched a lot of "Roseanne," so I didn't know that her husband's name is DAN Conner.

And as for "Dancing With the Stars," I haven't watched a second of it, so I hadn't a prayer of coming up with LEN Goodman, longtime judge.

Continuing the TV theme, testosterone-fueled channel Spike TV, now called the Paramount Network, itself started as a country-themed channel called The Nashville Network, TNN.

Another new word to this guy is GIMBAL, or gimbal ring, a device that allows another device or body (such as a camera or ship's compass) to be suspended such that it remains level even if its support inclines.

Well, that's O'ER.  I looked up a few things, but I'm probably NO WISER.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 15, 2018

My time: 30:01, just a little faster than average.


Alex Bajcz, whose name wins at Scrabble, has fun with prepositions and hyphens.  The themed answers are phrases with verbs and prepositions which are turned into adjectives (thus the unwritten hyphen).  These are answers are clued as if they are adjective / noun, not the verb / object that the phrases usually are.

For example, pull up stakes becomes PULL-UP STAKES ("wagers for a gym exercise").  To stand in line is STAND-IN LINE, an "understudy's delivery."  "Scam alert" is PUT-ON NOTICE.  The one I found the most amusing is "fight clubs:" RUN-IN CIRCLES.  "Bad thing to see under a truck's hood?" is PICK-UP STEAM. I also really like DEAD-ON ARRIVAL for "timely entrance."

One I couldn't fill in without a lot of crossfill was "unrecruited athlete's bottleful."  That's WALK-ON WATER, or water belonging to a walk-on, which refers to an athlete who joins a team without being recruited.  It is contrasted with a "scholarship" player.  That's new to me!

Anyway, what a clever theme!  I quite enjoyed it, even if it took some time for the penny to drop.

I like PFFT for "sound of a dud."

Another sports thing: "pitcher's feat, slangily" is NO-NO.  It's short for a no-hitter.  Where does the extra no come from?  Why isn't it called a no-hi?  These are questions philosophers have been contemplating for centuries, with no hope of a concrete solution.

For "rear seating compartment in old vehicles," I was convinced it should be rumble seat (I had a metal toy car when I was kid with a flip-up rumble seat), but that doesn't fit, and it's TONNEAU, which to me doesn't seem defined right --- it's not a "compartment," is it?

"Replaced someone on a base" took me ages.  I couldn't stop thinking about military bases.  It's, you guessed it, another sports term, and refers to baseball, obviously.  PINCH-RAN means "got on base for someone else," which strikes me as possibly against the rules, or at least against the spirit of the game?

Here's a good story on the subject, though:
Oakland owner Charlie Finley, known as an unconventional thinker, came to believe that it would be useful to have a "designated runner" --- a fast player on the roster whose only job was to periodically enter a game and run the bases for slower players. He signed Herb Washington, a track star with no baseball experience. Washington appeared in 105 games for the Athletics in 1974 and 1975, scoring 33 runs and stealing 31 bases, without once playing the field or coming up to bat.  His 1975 Topps baseball card is the only baseball card in history to use the "Pinch Runner" position label.
Queen NOOR al-Hussein of Jordan is the queen dowager, the fourth wife and widow of King Hussein.

Totally baffling to me: "'Fight, fight, fight for Maryland!' singer, familiarly" is TERP.  Might as well be Greek to me.  A quick Googling shows that it refers to the University of Maryland fight song.  The school's mascot is the Terrapin, abbreviated TERP

"Lunchtime errands" is NOONERS!  Ha ha!

APEAK is seaman-speak for vertical, especially in reference to an anchor cable.

A reluctant hat tip for "10/" meaning OCT.  You got me this time, sir.

I could not process GOOK for "proceed well enough."  I was convinced it was an error.  Why on earth would they print such a hateful racial slur?  But it's GO OK, of course.  Whoops!

I only knew Peter O'TOOLE played Mr. Chips (in a 1969 musical remake) because of a recent Geeks who Drink question.  Before that, I only knew of Robert Donat, who played him in the 1939 original.

Hockey fans might find it the most basic of facts that the Edmonton OILERs won the Stanley Cup four times in the 1980s. Not me, however!

Too-quick-on-the-draw department: For "hoppy brew" I put *ALE but it's IPA.  For "what an AP class likely isn't" I put *BASIC but it's EASY A.  For "end of the block?" I put *KAY but it's -ADE.  For "story featuring divine intervention" I put *FLOOD but it's ILIAD --- well played!  For "to repeat..." I put *AGAIN but it's I SAID.

I remembered that Paul ANKA sang "Eso Beso" from the same clue way back on October 2, 2017.

I am so tired of these damn SLRS.

Clever clues: "Opposite of stiff" is TIP, ha!  "Small breather?" is NOSTRIL.  "It's not in the bag" is LOOSE TEA.

 I enjoyed this theme a lot, but I didn't do TSO well this tile.  ISLE try to do better.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 14, 2018

My time: 21:28, pretty slow.


Sam Ezersky constructed this themeless Saturday which gave me a lot of trouble.  I had fun working through it, but it was a real challenge!

I didn't enjoy some of the questionable fill.  I don't think ECOLABEL is a thing.  "Dolphin safe" is a label, but does anyone call it an ECOLABEL?  Also, "used performance-enhancing drugs, in slang" is ROIDED.  Absolutely not.  Unequivocally no.  "ROIDED out" is a legitimate phrase, but no one uses it as a verb, like "He ROIDED during the Tour de France."  Nope.

Similarly, SO LONG isn't really a "departure announcement."  It's not announcing anything, is it?  It's a farewell.

URANIA is the muse of astronomy.  She usually is represented by a globe, which she points to with her little staff.  Also sometimes she is depicted with a compass.

"2016 World Series celebrant" is CUBS FAN, because the Cubs won the series in 2016 for the first time since 1908.

In the Bible, Esau had many grandsons.  One was OMAR, son of Eliphaz, Esau's son by one wife.  He also had another wife and another son.  Omar's brothers were Teman, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz.

"Like some laps and raps" is FREESTYLE.  I got the rap part, but I didn't make the connection that the lap refers to swimming in the pool.

Never heard of the album 3 Great Guys by Neil Sedaka, Sam Cooke, and Paul ANKA, but it's sadly not a collaboration, just an album with four solo tracks by each singer.

Did you know O. HENRY called New York City "Baghdad-on-the-Subway?"  (Or possibly "Baghdad on the Hudson" or "Gotham-on-the Subway"?) Me neither, but that's pretty amusing, and sounds like a quip he'd make.

For "salt" I had *SEASON a long time, but it's SEAMAN.  Very tricky!

An OCTILE is basically just one-eighth in statistics.

Robinson CANÓ is a Yankees and Mariners second baseman whom I've never heard of but seems to make 24 million dollars a year, which seems somewhat excessive.

The prefix ENTO- means within, so ENTOdermal, the same as endodermal, just means related to the innermost layer of tissues, such as gut lining.

The ALI PASHA referred to in the puzzle is the one known as the Lion of Jannina, who rules 1788-1822.  referred to in The Count of Monte Cristo and lots of other works.  He was known for rising through the ranks of brigands, his love of law and order, and his religious neutrality.  He was killed at the age of 82 by the Ottoman government, the Sublime Porte.

Jessica BIEL I know, but The Book of Love I don't.  It's a 2016 movie that seems to have the alternate title The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.  Justin Timberlake did the music!  It looks horrible.

I've never heard of Charlamagne THA God, but it seemed like a pretty obvious guess for the middle part.

"Group of notes reflecting a five-sharp scale" is just gibberish to me.  The answer is B CHORD, and I don't really get it despite scanning a few instruction pages.  Its actual name is B major.  It encompasses the pitches B, C♯, D♯, E, F♯, G♯, and A♯.  That's five sharps!

J'aime Paris, and I've been there a few times, but I don't know PARC Monceau.  It has a rotunda!  It was finished in 1779.  It was created as an example of the architectural folly, or fantastic reconstructions of buildings of different ages and continents.  Today, it has free wifi.  That's progress.

Clever clues: "Tabs are kept on them" is SODA CANS.  "D.C.'s D or C" is STREET. "Play stoppers" is RED CARDS --- I wanted to put *LAST ACTS.  "Baby pool?" is SLOBBER.  "Provider of protective coverage" is SCAB.

Well, SO LONG.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 13, 2018

My time: 13:50.


Joe Krozel constructed this flywheel-shaped puzzle (sorry, to me, these always evoke swastikas, but I know that can't be helped).  It's a fun themeless Friday.

There's some really quality fill here.  Not crazy-long answers like last week's, but interesting words and phrases.  CRANIA ("images on a timeline of human evolution, maybe"), HAVE A SIP, UMLAUT ("high points?" --- clever!),  HARANGUE, WEASELED, MPEG FILE, DIVE BAR, DENATURE, BOREAL, MESS TENT, etc.  A nice amount of unusual words with sly clues.  No short entries at all in this puzzle!

I've heard of one of these acting QUINNS: Anthony, but not Aidan.  He has a familiar face.  He was in Michael Collins.

Totally new to me is the SEA RAVEN, "spiny fish named after a bird."  It is a bony fish in the same order as the lionfish.

Apparently ANGOLA joined OPEC in 2007.  It's the second-largest oil producer in Africa, after Nigeria, also an OPEC member.

"Blue cheese and black coffee, typically" are ACQUIRED / TASTES.  I guess that's fair, though it's very America-centric.  I was thinking they were European treats.

I'm not up on my car models.  Dodge has SUVs called DURANGOS.  The king of SUVs!  At least that's what their tagline says.

"Prefix with -gram" is PENTA-.  It means five, of course, as in pentagon.  A pentagram is a five-pointed star, a pentangle, a star polygon.  It's not one fifth of a gram!

"Like many coats with liners" is ZIPPERED.  Hmmm.  I guess.

I wanted to put *HANGABLE for "serious, as an offense," but it's JAILABLE.

I recognized Rigel as a star and assumed Spica was one as well.  It is --- the brightest star in Virgo --- and they are both classified as B-STARS.  Except they seem to be actually called B-type or B-class.  They are luminous and blue.  The term F-star appeared September 27, 2017, to refer to an F-class supergiant, like Polaris.

Paso ROBLES appeared November 4, 2017, but I didn't recall that while doing today's.

Clever clue: "One talking a blue streak?" is CUSSER.

And I'm... DRUM ROLL... outta here.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 12, 2018

My time: 11:53, pretty good!


Jules Markey offers premium service with this tribute to the CABLE BOX.  Four squares are rebus squares with three-letter cable channel names in them.  We have DRE[AMC]ATCHER crossed with TE[AM C]REST ("image on a soccer jersey").  Then there's "UGLY [BET]TY" ("TV dramedy based on a Colombian telenovela") crossed with GLO[BE T]HEATER ("setting for Shakespeare's Julius Caesar," which is pretty clever)The USA network is represented in SA[USA]GE PARTY (the movie) crossed with GENI[US A]T WORK.  Finally, WIS[HBO]NES ("some gridiron formations" --- looks more like a T-bone to me) is crossed with DAS[HBO]ARD.

CATALINA is an ISLE off of California.  I thought it might be this one, in the Dominican Republic, and put *ISLA.  But that would mean we have *BARG for the down cross, and while a *BARG (unit of pressure above or below atmospheric pressure) might conceivably be a "danger for a submarine," the real danger is of course a BERG.

"Shelter for a Minuteman" is SILO, because a Minuteman is not only a colonial militia member, but also an ICBM.

Flash Gordon was apparently a YALE graduate and polo player before he became a space hero.

Did you know Verizon acquired AOL in 2015?  That's about 15 years longer than I thought AOL existed.

"Dyne-centimeters" is not the way I think of ERGS, not being a science guy, but it's the exact definition.  An erg is the amount of work done by a force of one dyne (the force required to accelerate a mass of one gram at a rate of one centimeter per second squared) exerted for a distance of one centimeter.  Seems a mite redundant.

OSAMA is a 2003 Golden Globe-winning film about a girl forced to masquerade as a boy so she can find work and avoid the Taliban.

"Writes the first time, every time" was (and is) the slogan for the original BIC PEN, the Cristal.

I could have sworn I'd posted about this one before, but I can't find it.  Rum cakes are sometimes referred to as BABAS, as in baba au rhum

BPOE was an answer on March 28, but today it's part of the clue for ELKS.

Clever clues: "Cancer locator?" is STAR MAP.  "Ring... or sphere" is ARENA.  "The inn crowd?" is GUESTS.

I'm happy with this one!  I wouldn't say I exactly ACED it, but ILE posit, and YULE agree, that it didn't give me much trouble.   I do like a good rebus.  It's nearly always a fun surprise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 11, 2018

My time: 5:38, beating the old record by ten seconds!


Even though classical music is not my forte, I had little trouble with this Keiran King puzzle that plays with phonetics (which are more my bag).
  • The first themed clue, BARBER OF SEVILLE, is by ROWE / SCENE / KNEE (Gioachino Rossini), "so to speak."
  • CANON IN D, by PACK / BELL / ELLE (switch the last two to get Johann Pachelbel), is the one that I picked up on first, because it's everywhere!
  • Then there's NOCTURNE, by PAN / SHOW (Pancho Vladigerov, a very influential Bulgarian composer whom I've never heard of).  
  • And you can't forget MOONLIGHT SONATA, surprisingly by VENN / HOE / BATE.  Wait, what?  Who's that?  Constructor King drops the ball here and puts BATE / HOE / VENN (Beethoven, natch) backwards in the puzzle.  I'm sure that the Pachelbel and this one were not his ideal, but this one especially strikes a bum note.

I did not know that the strict definition of VICAR is a deputy or substitute, as in the stand-in for a bishop.  However, now that I see it, it's obvious, as in the word vicariously.

I somehow recalled that "Dirty Jobs" (and "Deadliest Catch") host Mike ROWE appeared November 15, 2017.

Clever clue: "What makes ale pale?" is PEE --- as in the letter, not the pale yellow urine.

And that's it.  Aside from the theme, there was nothing new to me here.  IMHO, I am really starting to HONE my skills and getting faster at crosswords.  It goes to SHOW that the blog is paying off!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 10, 2018

My time: 5:50, very respectable.


Alan Arbesfeld has constructed a crossword whose theme might well make you sigh with exasperation, as it isn't obvious.  The themed answers all begin with the phoneme group /sī/, all spelled differently.  CYBERSPACE, "SILENT NIGHT," SAYONARA, CITATION ("1948 Triple Crown winner"), SCIENCE FAIR, and PSYCHED OUT are such answers.  Unmindful all the signs, I did not catch on to this theme until I looked at the finished puzzle to begin this post.

Some nice extra fill here too, like SVELTE, SYNOD, URBAN MYTH, ZILCH, SNOOT, and GO IT ALONE.

I have not heard of the Russian ballet company KIROV.  That's the Soviet name for the Imperial Russian Ballet, now also called the Mariinsky Ballet.  It was named after the Bolshevik leader Sergey Kirov, who was assassinated likely by Big Joe Stalin.

I have not heard of actress SELA Ward, nor her show, the '90s NBC drama "Sisters."

I've watched my share of "The Addams Family," but couldn't recall that Gomez Addams calls his wife, Morticia, TISH.

Paul ANKA had a hit with "Puppy Love" in 1960.  He wrote it for Annette Funicello, whom he was dating at the time.  Donny Osmond covered it in 1972.

I know what ROSIN is, but I don't much associate it with being on a pitcher's mound.  Apparently it is commonly used to get a better grip on the ball.  And is legal, unlike pine tar and other gunk.

"Longfellow's bell town" is ATRI, a totally new one on me.  It's from his poem "The Sicilian's Tale; the Bell of ATRI," part of his 1863 Canterbury Tales-like poem sequence, Tales of a Wayside Inn.
At Atri in Abruzzo, a small town
Of ancient Roman date, but scant renown,
One of those little places that have run
Half up the hill, beneath a blazing sun,
And then sat down to rest, as if to say,
"I climb no farther upward, come what may" --
The Re Giovanni, now unknown to fame,
So many monarchs since have borne the name,
Had a great bell hung in the market-place,
Beneath a roof, projecting some small space,
By way of shelter from the sun and rain.
The bell is for everyone to ring in case of trouble.  One day an abandoned horse rings the bell, and his former owner, a rich but miserly man who had no use for the horse, is publicly shamed and censured.

John HERSEY was a journalist and author of Hiroshima, a 1946 book covering six survivors of the atomic bomb blast.

"Score before deuce, maybe" did not slow me down this time, because I remembered the appearance of AD IN on November 21, 2017.

Quite a bit of new material for a Tuesday.  I did pretty well on time, but then, it's not ERASE.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 9, 2018

My time: 4:31.


Today, Erik Agard presents a puzzle whose elementary theme is ours to discover.  Playing off of the chemical symbol for silver, Ag, he clues three A.G. actors, ALEC GUINESS, ANDY GARCIA, and AVA GARDNER, appropriately stars of the SILVER SCREEN.

I've seen ULTA stores, but needed crossfill to put it in for "big name in beauty supplies."

I had a little bit of trouble spelling NIGIRI, which is sushi on rice (as opposed to sashimi).

Never heard of it department: DREXEL University, a research university in Philadelphia founded by Anthony Drexel, a banker and philanthropist who worked with J.P. Morgan.

Also, since I'm past 40 and therefore utterly useless, I've never heard of this crazy dance the kids are/were doing, SWAG SURF.  Apparently inspired by a song, "Swag Surfin'," by Fast Life Yungstaz?  Sigh.  Buzzfeed is such trash.

The clue "Letters on a beach bottle" and its answer SPF appeared verbatim on March 29.

Clever clue: "Here's the kicker!" is FOOT.

This was an easy one, a welcome respite from crushingly tricky Sunday.  Finishing this in under five minutes was a much NICER feeling.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 8, 2018

My time: 28:38.  This is on the slow side.


This wasn't a discouraging slog by Patrick Berry --- for me it was challenging enough to make me keep grinding --- but it was a slog nonetheless.  The theme, which I thankfully was attuned to ahead of time by looking at the title ("Triple Spoonerisms"), is such that the fill is utter nonsense.

So, yeah.  Triple spoonerisms.  Clued as they are written, not tied into the original phrases at all. I'm afraid this is ugh and groan time.
  • "What caused the nosebleed on the playground?" is BEAK OF LAD STRUCK (streak of bad luck).
  • "Tagline in an ad for Elmer's Glue-Ale?" is THE STUCK HOPS HERE (the buck stops here).
  • In one of the few that make sense and is somewhat amusing, "novice parasailer's fear?" is TERROR OF BAD GLIDINGS (bearer of bad tidings).
  • "Best place to buy a platter of fruit-flavored sodas?" is THE FANTA TRAY SALE (the Santa Fe Trail).  Seriously, this is just brain-numbing.  It's word garbage and there's no cleverness to it, other than the fitting of such a long phrase into a crossword.  It's "wordplay" in its most simplistic form.
  • "Containers for electric guitars?" is ROCK STAR CASES (stock car races).  This one isn't even clued well.  Not all rock stars carry electric guitars.  Very few electric guitars are carried by rock stars.
  • I have a sneaking liking for PALE HAIRY MASS ("description of a yeti?"), which I was tempted to put in even before I knew of the theme, but dismissed as too silly.  It wasn't too silly.  It's a "play" on the phrase Hail Mary pass.  Suggestion for making this cleverer: blend the original into the clue and answer, like, say, "Description of yeti messing up last-chance football throw."
So basically a bunch of words strung together, and not really funny.  Sigh.

A FUNGO is a ball thrown into the air by the batter.  Or it is a special bat made for this practice.  Baseball!  It's the National Pastime of the NYT Crossword.

I've heard the word BEDSIT several times, but I guess I never bothered to nail down its definition: a one-room apartment, what a Yank might call a studio, if it wasn't being called just a rented room.

Somehow I came up with the name of Napoleon Dynamite star Jon HEDER.

"FISA warrant objective" is TAP.  FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

UPN, network of "Veronica Mars," which I never watched, was just mentioned April 4.

Irritating clue: "They're easy to take" turns out to be GELCAPS.  That's not clever, just vague!

Clever clue: "Lash with a bullwhip" is LARUE.  That really got me scratching my head for a long time.  "More rare, perhaps" is REDDER.

You know, I hate to NIT, but while there was a lot of good fill and some admirably oblique clues, I think the theme turned this one into a DUD.  Basically, YECCH.  No MOE for me!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 7, 2018

My time: 23:17, a bit better than average for Saturday.  It seemed like a lot longer.


Mark Diehl constructed this masterclass in themeless puzzling.  With only 26 black squares, and some truly impressive big fill such as COFFEEMATE, ONION BAGEL, BEERGARITA ("Coronoa with tequila and fruit juice, e.g.") --- those three are a real breakfast of champions --- COPIED DOWN, TRAM ROUTES, I'M NO EXPERT, ENGINE NUMBER ("fire department ID"), TUNA MELT, MENU PAGES, FAIR DICE ("things that can't be loaded"), NEWEL, and yes, even ZENO'S PARADOX (Achilles and the tortoise stuff, somewhat cryptically clued as "early example of reductio ad absurdum").  Whew! That's a great Diehl of amazingly well crafted fill!

All that definitely requires some cap doffing, just like yesterday.  Doff!

Things got off to a poor start when I unthinkingly put *TITO for "Leader among the Axis powers."  Josip Franz Tito, of course, was an anti-Nazi communist.  It's Hideki TOJO, who authorized the attack on Pearl Harbor and was hanged by the War Crimes Tribunal in 1948.

Continuing my brain-deadedness, I could not come up with the name of first US Congresswoman Jeannette RANKIN (R, Montana, 1916 and 1940), even though I certainly have studied her career before.

TANZANIA was formed in 1964 as a merger of the British territories Tanganyika and the Zanzibar Archipelago.  Again, I'm familiar with this, but I just couldn't get the letters together.

For "John of the Plymouth colony," I thought about both *SMITH and *ROLFE, but it turned out to be John ALDEN, whom I've never heard of.  Starting out at the ship's cooper, he held several government positions in the New World.

Did you know NINE was the CB emergency channel?  Me neither.

"Article of clothing not originating where its name would suggest" is PANAMA hat, which is apparently of Ecuadorian origin.

We all know Brian ENO, but do we know he released his twenty-fifth studio album, The Ship, in 2016?  No, but we didn't care all that much either.

A totally new word to me is PRECESS ("spin like a gyroscope").  For example, general relativity predicts that the elliptical orbits of planets PRECESS around the sun.

Apparently the NBA DRAFT is in June?  And I guess the season starts in October?  And ends in April?  I don't know anything about basketball.

Speaking of basketball, Jermaine O'NEAL is apparently a six-time All-Star in the NBA.  I can't keep track of all these pituitary cases.

I also have not read Tess of the D'Urbervilles, so am not familiar with ALEC D'Urberville, the villain of the novel who rapes Tess and then later converts to Christianity and offers to marry her, after she's already married.

"2001 Israel Prize winner" stumped me, as I have not heard of the prize in question.   It's an award granted by the state of Israel for achievement in the arts, humanities, and sciences.  In 2001 it was awarded to Abba EBAN, whom we met on December 22, 2017.

"Condition caused by abnormal calcium levels" is TETANY, a condition presenting as muscle spasms, which I've never heard of.

The Piazza dei Miracoli is located in PISA, Italy.  Its formal name is Piazza del Duomo, or Cathedral Square.  It is home to several architectural wonders, but my favorite is Pisa Cathedral.

I put ETON collar in right away!

Clever clues: "Prepares for a drill?" is OPENS WIDE.  "Fix a flat for?" is TUNE.

Well, IMO, that was extremely tough.  The long fill, the new material, the vague clues...  It made me WIND UP all tuckered out.  On to Sunday?  Maybe?

Friday, April 6, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 6, 2018

My time: 16:30, not too bad but not great.


This themeless by David Steinberg has some spectacular wall-to-wall fill: HELICOPTER PARENT, A RUN FOR ONE'S MONEY, SONIC DEPTH FINDER (!!), THAT'S WHAT SHE SAD, "DO YOU WANT TO DANCE" (the Beach Boys and Ramones song, originally a 1958 hit by Bobby Freeman, also covered by Bette Midler and Cliff Richard, among others), and STANDING IN GOOD STEAD.

We also get WAR BABIES "deliveries of the 1940s"), LUNAR ROVER, and E-Z PASS LANE ("quick way through a toll plaza").

Now that's really strong constructing chops.  I doff my cap.  Doff!

For "stops streaming" I had *CLOGS but it's CLOTS.

The terrorist group referred to more commonly in America as ISIS is also called ISIL, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and the LEVANT.

"Ex-Expo Rusty" had me scratching my head, thinking of expositions and fairs and such, but then the penny dropped.  It refers to the Montreal EXPOS, the Canadian baseball team established in 1969 and relocated in 2004 as the Washington Nationals.  And thus Rusty is the first name of a former player: Rusty STAUB, a right fielder and first baseman whose number the Expos retired.

A RONDEL is a 14-line poem which repeats the rhyme scheme throughout: ABAB, ABBA, etc, where the As and Bs are the same rhyme.

Cleverly, "thread holder" is not *SPOOL but SCREW.

I like seeing nods to Eugene DEBS and Medgar EVERS.

SÃO Jorge is a long thin island in the Azores archipelago of Portugal.

Itzamna is the spirit of early mists and showers (according to William S. Burroughs), a possible god of the sky in MAYA mythology.

California town Santa ROSA last appeared March 9.  Santa CLARA hasn't appeared in my notes yet as an answer, but it appeared in the December 17, 2017 puzzle as home to Levi's Stadium.

Clever clues: "They go to the dogs" is SCRAPS.  "French toast maker, maybe" is AMI.  "Result of an oil surplus" is ACNE, and "25 Down unit" is --- ugh --- ZIT.

I really enjoyed this one.  It wasn't a walk in the park by any means --- those long entries were hard to get a first hold on.  But once the first fell, the rest started coming, and I love the unusual fill.  I met its challenge with GUSTO.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thursday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 5, 2018

My time: 11:39, just a minute slower than the record!


David J. Kahn created this puzzle with a baseball theme.  Sports isn't my thing, so I had a very hard time cottoning on to the joke, but once I did, I was pretty impressed with the wordplay.  Anyway, baseball phrases are clued with non-sports-related puns rather than definitions: BOTTOM OF THE NINTH is also the "bass part in Beethoven's 'Choral' symphony;" BASES LOADED is "result of a lot of drinking in the army;" TWO MEN OUT is "a couple of prisoners after an escape from Leavenworth;" FULL COUNT is "Dracula, after stuffing himself;" and my favorite, DOWN BY THREE is "plan for a midafternoon nap."

And, apparently, a GRAND SLAM HOME RUN "will cause a walk-off win in the situation" described by all these clues.

I haven't heard the Lorette Lynn song "I LIE." It hit #9 on the Billboard Country chart and was released on the 1982 album of the same name.

LOU Brock was a baseball player, mostly from the St. Louis Cardinals.  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame (in Cooperstown) in 1985.

Here's a new word: COTTER, a curved metal pin used in fastening pieces together.

Never heard of Spanish muralist José María SERT, known for his grisaille style.  He was hired to do the mural at Rockefeller Center after Diego Rivera painted Lenin and was fired.

I've heard of Nolan RYAN, of course, but couldn't have told you that he holds the all-time record for strikeouts.  He has 5,714, nearly one thousand more than his closest rival, Randy Johnson.

In other sports news, Yogi Berra won TEN World Series when he was a player, from 1947 to 1962.  He won thirteen World Series total, including as coach and manager.

The Saint Louis Cardinals have eleven World Series wins (starting in 1926), but I don't know that anyone refers to them as ST. L, do they?

Arizona's Glen Canyon DAM is on the Colorado River.  It is 710 feet high and forms Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the US.

The Jaguar model XK-E last appeared on October 1, 2017.

Clever clues: "It's California's fault" is SAN ANDREAS.  "Strike with a pickaxe" is ORE.  "Yarn that stretches" is SAGA.  "Met demands" is ARIAS --- now that's a good one.  "Bypass arteries" is TOLL ROADS.

This was a nice, fun puzzle that I didn't find hard, but was just the right amount of challenging.  My quick time is a stroke to my EGO.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 4, 2018

My time: 6:22, very close to my record!


Famous satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic and Eric Berlin teamed up to gift us with this really cheesy movie title pun puzzle: A FEW GOUDA MEN, FETA ATTRACTION, THE PELICAN BRIE, and MEUNSTERS, IC.  Ha ha!  So cheesy!  How dairy dazzle us so with these puns?

In what I assume is all Weird Al's doing, there's also a mention of his musical godfather, Tom LEHRER, and probably another influence, John CLEESE.

I vaguely remember the same SARA Bareilles, singer best known for the 2007 hit "Love Song."

UPN, the United Paramount Network, was a TV station from 1995 to 2006.  many of its programs went on to air on The CW, a TV network and joint venture between CBS and Warner Brothers (the name is an initialism).

There are three types of CLEF symbols, and all of them are curly.

Also in musical time, A TEMPO is a direction indicating the song should return to the previous speed.

I was totally baffled by "Acre's land."  It's ISRAEL, because Acre is a coastal city in North Israel.  It has been a human settlement for at least five thousand years.  The name may be derived from a Canaanite word meaning "border."  It is also called Akko.

The CALLA lily slowed me down, just as it did on February 6 when it first appeared!  Argh.

Clever clues: "Rock that rolls?" is LAVA. "Coach, or what a coach is part of" is TRAIN.  "Rug you don't walk on" is TOUPEE.

Well, that was oh, so clever and OSO fun.  Slightly challenging and a theme that helps the fill fall into place once it clicks.  Good job to both clever constructors.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: April 3, 2018

My time: 7:37, quite slow for a Tuesday.


Damon Gulczynski revisits the theme of words that sound like letters (I swear I've seen this theme before, though not this exact puzzle).  The themed answers are NETFLIX QUEUE, YES YOU, MY EYE ("balderdash!"), DEAD SEA, MARY KAY, KAL-EL, and BUT WHY.  Read the last words together and you spell out the second word in THINK QUICKLY.

There was a lot, a lot of new-to-me stuff this time around.

An interesting tidbit is that the much-used Twitter symbols, ATS, have no commonly accepted English term other than "at sign."  Although I would endorse "ampersat."

It's been a long, long time since this old man and former French literature student heard the name Gil Blas, a 1735 novel by Alain-René LESAGE.  he is apparently better known for one I've never heard of, The Devil Upon Two Sticks, which sounds much more interesting.

I'm not familiar with the SUNDEW, a carnivorous plant that is not a fly-trap.  A member of genus Drosera, it resembles a thin frond of a fern with stalks that end on sticky globs.

Also new to me is LASSE Hallström, Swedish director of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat, My Life as a Dog, and The Cider House Rules. Also he is married to Lena Olin.

I've vaguely heard of IRENE Cara, who sang "Flashdance... What a Feeling."

In more high culture trivia, it is the Flavian Emperor TITUS who is best known for finishing the Colosseum and for his humanitarian aid after the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius and the burning of Rome the next year.

The muscle below a delt, or deltoid (shoulder muscle), is a latissimus dorsi, basically the side muscle, abbreviated LAT.

For "lead-in to ops" I had *PSY but it's SYS.

Ned YOST is a former baseball player and current manager of the Kansas City Royals.  He has been to two World Series, one as a player and one as a manager.  Never heard of him.

Another athlete I don't know is George "Papa Bear" HALAS, football player, coach, and founder of the Chicago Bears.

And, again in sports, the Cyclones ("of the Big 12 Conf.") are the sports team for Iowa State, or ISU.  It's so odd to me that so many millions of people care so deeply about unimportant things like this.

Nearly lost to me from my school days is the very pleasant poem "ABOU Ben Adhem," by Leigh Hunt.

I have never heard of the website KAYAK, an online travel site like Orbitz and Travelocity.

Obama's mother ANN Dunham hasn't appeared such that I've noticed so far, but she did pop up when I researched his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, on Februrary 21.

The "Seinfeld" character Uncle LEO was played by Len Lesser, as we learned on October 13, 2017.

Our old friend EMI, Electrical and Music Industries, shows up again.

OH NO, this was a tough one.  But I pulled through.  YAY, ME.