Saturday, June 30, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 30, 2018

My time: 19:18.


BY JOVE! Andy Kravis built this themeless, and what a nice job he did.  I like the modern fill E-CIGARETTES and BROTOX.  It's Botox for bros, dude!

Let's get right into the unknown material, shall we?

I failed to remember that Milton Berle's nickname is Mr. Television.  By another epithet, he is the not at all creepy UNCLE MILTIE.

It's hard to remember ERNIE Ford's name without the "Tennessee" part.

Emperor CONSTANTINE convened the First Council of Nicaea in 325 to try to reach a consensus about what all Christians agreed on.  Ha!  As if.  There will always be people for whom their made-up thing is much more real than your made-up thing.  The council's main accomplishments were agreement of the divine nature of God the Son and his relationship to God the Father, the construction of the first part of the Nicene Creed (rewritten sixty years later), and establishing uniform observance of the date of Easter.

Never heard of American expressionist painter and sculptor Milton ROBERT Rauschenberg.  He is best known for his mixed-media "Combine" works.

SPÄTLESE is a dry German wine made from late-harvest grapes, which I should have gotten more easily, since I know a little German and spät means "late." Lese turns out to mean "harvest."  It's all a little on the NOSE ("sommelier's concern").

Tarzan, the Ape Man is a terrible 1981 adaptation of the Tarzan story, with Bo Derek as Jane.  It was directed by her husband, John DEREK.  He was married to Bo Derek, Linda Evans, Ursula Andress and Pati Behrs.  Dang!

John Derek has in common with Frank Sinatra that he was REMARRIED three times!  I thought maybe that meant he married, divorced, and remarried the same woman on three different occasions, but it just means he had four wives total.

Finally, the documentary citizenfour is about Edward Snowden, so the organization featured in it is the NSA.

Director AVA DUVERNAY has come up several times and as I have already mentioned, I can't seem to remember her.  She has produced the Oprah series "Queen Sugar," directed Selma, and directed this year's A Wrinkle In Time.  That's a nice resume.  It's time to get her name down in my brian!

There's a lot of clever clues today: "Cold response?" is BRR.  "Grade in the high 80s or low 90s?" is OCTANE.  "Churro ingredient?" is ROLLED R!  "Ones making periodical changes" is EDITORS.  "Bar food?" is GRANOLA.  "Penmen?" is FELONS.  "Fitting pastime?" is JIGSAW.

IN ALL, I did not a not too shabby job.  Well, this has been fun, but let's not DWELL.  Now IT'S OVER.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 29, 2018

My time: 14:56.


David Steinberg built this fun, challenging Friday themeless.  I enjoyed a lot of the fill.  The one that made me the smile most was BADA-BING, BADA-BOOM ("voilà!"), but IMAGINARY FRIENDS, MASTER CONTROLLER ("overseer of all other systems"), CAST LOTS, AARGH ("this is killing me!"), PSHAW ("phooey!"), and NAWLINS ("where po' boys are eaten") are also all great.

Crossword creators love ELO.  This time their clue is the song "Telephone Line." I don't think I care for this band.

Crossword creators also love the GTO.  Here it is part of the lyrics to Ronnie & the Daytonas' "Little GTO."  This song was also a clue on January 13.

"Package of Linux software, informally" is DISTROS.  I don't think I'll pretend to understand that.

Fifty Shades of Grey is nowhere near my cup of tea, so I have no idea who Anastasia STEELE is.  It seems she's the protagonist?  That's nice.  What a subtle name choice!

Did you know that Madiera Airport, in Santa Cruz, Portugal, was renamed Madiera International Airport CRISTIANO RONALDO in 2016?  He was born there.  But he plays for Real Madrid!  The airport is ranked as the ninth most dangerous airport in the world because of wind conditions.

It's new to me: I've never heard of this fascinating place, GRETNA Green!  It's a village in Scotland famous for being an elopement destination.  This is due to a few reasons, one being a good place for lovers who lived on opposite sides of the border to meet, another being to escape a 1754 Marriage Act which allowed parents to veto a proposed marriage.  To me the most interesting is that according to Scottish law, if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna were charmingly known as "anvil priests!"

The song "Ain't It Fun" won the 2014 Best Rock Song Grammy.  It is by Paramore.  I have never heard of it.  I'm old.

I didn't know EGYPT was referred to as Mizraim in the Bible.  A search for the term in a concordance reveals a lot of BEGETs and sons of (he was a son of Ham), but nothing about a land.  In some translations of Genesis we read "When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, 'This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.' Therefore the place was called Abel Mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan."

Everyone knows SNL, but do we know it's filmed at Studio 8H?  No, and I'm not sure we care.  AT one time, 8H was the world's largest radio studio.  It was originally constructed for Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1937.

Lamborghini is owned by the Volkswagen Company through its parent company, AUDI.

ERICA Hill is a CNN journalist.

"Knesset assembly" is ISRAELIS.  Knesset is Hebrew for "gathering," but it's also the name of the unicameral legislature of Israel, located in Jerusalem.

I thought "shutdown alternative" referred to a government shutdown, but it's the computer type.  RESTART is another option.

Hungarian conductor Georg SOLTI appeared on December 2, 2017.  Here he is clued as being a knighted conductor.  He's a KBE!  When I first read the clue Ringo Starr popped into my mind; he's a knight too, and he played a conductor!

2014-15 dance craze NAE NAE appeared on January 21.

Clever clues: "Head of Napoleon's army?" is TÊTE.  "They provide quarters for dollars" is INNS.  "Features on some jackets" is BIOS.  "Dope" is INFO.  "Middle of a dash?" is ODOMETER.  "Memorable line?' is SCAR.  "Pot grower?" is ANTE.

This was a refreshing challenge.  I thought the difficulty level was right ON TARGET. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 28, 2018

My time: 12:51.


Jeff Chen has the keys to a crafty puzzle this Thursday.  "Key that moves the cursor to the next line" is ENTER, and that's the clue to solving five themed clues.

Two of those clues were obvious and so I knew right away there would be some missing letters.  "In sci-fi, it had the registry number NCC-1701" is nerd 101, and I'm not even much of a "Star Trek" fan.  It's USS / [Enter]PRISE, in which the second word, PRISE, is underneath USS, and the [enter] is implied, because that word is represented by the PRISE being on the next line.  In short, USS plus PRISE on the next line = USS [Enter]PRISE.

I also knew "classic Scott Joplin rag" THE / [Enter]TAINER right off.  So with the capper solved, I didn't have much trouble with the rest of the theme.

"Assume a leading role" is TAKE C[enter] / STAGE, "insects that nest in deadwood" is CARP[enter] / ANTS, and "fowl tasting Japanese dish" is CHICK[en] / [ter]IYAKI.

I've been to India and I'm a fan of mythological stories from all cultures, but the sun god RAVI didn't come to me.  It's one of the many names for Surya, who rides a chariot pulled by seven horses.

PETRA, Jordan, is a city in the southwest that has likely been settled for over 11,000 years. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a major tourist attraction.

I've never read The Hunger Games and so had no idea about the 12 "tributes" in the book or movie.  Are they items?  The answer is RUE.  How do you ship a tribute of regret to someone?  It turns out RUE is a 12-year-old girl from District 11 who gets killed.  I guess I see the appeal of these dystopian books, but for us older folks it's such an old, old trope.  Remember the Minotaur?

"Pheromone, notably" is ATTRACTANT.

Never heard of actress Anouk AIMÉE (whose name I assumed was the other way around before I looked her up).  She's a French actress who was in Lola, A Man and a Woman, and La Dolce Vita.

ANIL, aka Indigofera suffruticosa, Guatemalan indigo, small-leaved indigo, and West Indian indigo, is a flowering New World plant.  It is used to make indigo dye.

It turns out that Great EGRETS are also called common EGRETS.  It's like a contronym!

Fascinating Fact time!  US president Chester A. ARTHUR never had a Vice President!  He ascended to the office upon the assassination of James Garfield (the only sitting House member to be elected president).  The 25th Amendment, dealing with the line of succession, was not ratified until 1967, so Arthur's VP position was ever filled.  Bonus fact: When Arthur was a junior partner at Culver, Parker and Arthur law firm, he successfully represented Lizzie Jennings, who was forcibly removed from a New York City streetcar in 1854 because of her skin color. The day after a jury awarded Jennings $225.00 in damages, the Third Avenue Railway Company had its streetcars desegregated.

Journalist and author Gail SHEEHY's books include Passages, on aging; Hillary's Choice, on Clinton; and The Man Who Changed the World, on Gorbachev.

For "baseball highlight" I put home run *REEL, like an actor's best-of compilation, but this doesn't mean a recap on TV.  It means what the player actually does: the home run TROT.

Also for "pull in" I put *REEL, because apparently I love that word.  It's REIN.

The subatomic particle TAU lepton appeared on November 29, 2017.

The assistant in Young Frankenstein played by Terri Garr, INGA, was spotlighted on September 30, 2017.

It's KAT Dennings again!  She was just here, on June 22.

Hip-Hop Is Dead!

Clever clues: "Met people" is OPERA STARS.  "Shortening in the kitchen?" is TSP.  "Ones going down the tubes?" is OVA.  "Bread common to many countries" is EURO.  "Building of interest, maybe" is ACCRUAL.  "Chest protectors?" is ATTICS.
This was a very satisfying puzzle.  I didn't fly through it like I did the first half of the week, but I enjoyed the clever theme.  And now it's time to CEASE.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossworld puzzle solved: June 27, 2018

My time: 6:33.


Ned White gives us the genuine article with this puzzle.  It's all based around the capper, the big punchline.  That's "Sean Parker's famous advice to Mark Zuckerberg in naming The Facebook:" DROP THE THE.  Crosswords always add "...and a hint to" the clued entries, but this time it actually is the solution to solving the four themed entries.

Four phrases leave out the definite article and then are clued as is.  For example, CUT TO CHASE is defined as "early 'Saturday Night Live' camera command?"  POP QUESTION is "you want Pepsi or Coke?"  BRINGS HOME BACON is of course about chauffeuring the actor Kevin around, and WHAT'S MATTER is a basic question for a physicist.

Pretty funny and clever, all four of them.  And the capper helps a lot.  Five star, A+ clue writing, would solve again.

Plus the fill has a few interesting bits: S-SHAPE, TRANQ, LATE LATIN, SKEIN.

Did you know AFLAC is based in Columbus, GA?  Me neither.

"Hits into the outfield" is SWATS.  Babe Ruth was the Sultan of Swat.  I wasn't aware it was a technical term.

Speaking of baseball, "1953 AL MVP Al" is Al ROSEN, whose nicknames were "Flip" and "The Hebrew Hammer."

"Big name in foil" is ALCOA, the Aluminum Company of America, the world's sixth-largest producer of aluminum.

I couldn't figure out "prefix with comic."  It's SERIOcomic.

The wording of "Ike's charge in WWII" stymied me for a while, but of course it's ETO.

Tennis champ HANA Mandliková is a Czech-Australian with four Grand Slam singles titles.  She won titles on grass, clay, and hard court.  She had a career high singles ranking of number three, and was ranked in the world top 50 from 1978 to 1989.

The ETS in the film Arrival landed on May 4.

Clever clues: "Sites for development" is UTERI.  "Sharp footwear" is ICE SKATES.

I was pretty TAKEN with this puzzle.  The theme was clever and amusingly clued.  Well, AISLE see you later.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 26, 2018

My time: 4:43, just two seconds slower than the record!


I never notice the time when I solve until I get to a slump.  If I had known how close I was, I would have moved a little faster maybe.  Anyway, this one is by Zhouqin Burnikel, who is ALTOGETHER too clever!  In this puzzle, AL is put TOGETHER with itself in five clued phrases: HALAL FOOD, IN LA-LA LAND, KUALA LUMPUR,  CENTRAL ALPS, and "autobiography of Nobel laureate Yousafzai" I AM MALALA.

Nilla wafers are made by Nabisco, so their "sister brand" is OREO.

Bantu is a large and loosely defined language group.  The most widely spoken language in the group is Swahili, but also includes Shona and Zulu, spoken by --- who else? --- ZULUS.

I've never heard of the pregame show "College GameDay," but ESPN was the obvious answer.

Look, I'm old.  I barely know who The Weeknd is, much less his real name, ABEL Makkonen Tesfaye.

I like the double He-Man references: SHE-RA and ADAM.

ASIANA is one of South Korea's major airlines, headquartered in Seoul.

Do I look like the kind of guy who know about jewelry retailers?  Never heard of Alex and ANI.  They seem to sell a lot of necklaces and bangles with symbols on them like elephants and pineapples.

Japanese watch and electronics company SEIKO appeared on May 31.  Here it is clued as "Citizen competitor."

"Gas in fuel" ETHANE last appeared on May 27.

This was a great Tuesday.  The theme was simple, but cleverly done, and showcased a lot of interesting fill.   Should I have paid more attention and broken my record?  'FRAID SO.  But I had a lot of fun doing it!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 25, 2018

My time: 3:49, just a few steps behind my record.


Kathy Wienberg has shopping on the brain with this easy-peasy Monday.  It's one of those themes that is really more of a "what do these apparently unrelated answers have in common" puzzler.  TEA GARDEN, SHOPPING LIST, GOLF TOURNAMENTS, and APPLE STRUDEL all... (Kreskin blows open envelope, reads) are phrases with a first word that connect to the word cart.

A tea cart, as my wife informed me, is something that you roll pastries around on.

The capper is online message ADD TO CART, which... sort of answers the question?  It doesn't really explain the rest of the phrases, though.  Oh well.

In bridge, a FINESSE is a play in which a player attempts to win either the current trick or a later trick with a card of the suit he leads notwithstanding that the opponents hold a higher card in the suit; the attempt is based on the assumption that the higher card is held by a particular opponent.  This explanation, and the entire Wikipedia article it is from, may as well by Greek to me.  Sometimes this is a problem with Wikipedia.  The articles are written by enthusiasts, who by nature don't know how to talk to beginners.

I have heard of CAPRI PANTS, but I don't think I've heard them described as clamdiggers.  Maybe in old fiction.  Some people think they are different.

Sporty Pontiac GTOS come up a lot.

Clever clues: "Acquire a winter coat?" is ICE UP.  "Speed reader?" is RADAR.

I had almost no trouble with this one.  Am I PROUD?  No, because it's Monday.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 24, 2018

My time: 26:58, but I'm still proud because this was super tricky.


Timothy Polin created this fearsome challenge.  A puzzle all about the movie JAWS.  There are a few themed words sprinkled through the puzzle, like SPIELBERG, AMITY ISLAND (that's where it takes place), MAN-EATING, SHARK, SEA MONSTER, and GREAT / WHITE.  There's even ska band REEL BIG FISH (whom I'm aware of but didn't know their song "Sell Out"). 

Then things get devious.  Suddenly (for me, anyway, as I didn't get to the center top until last), it's rebus time, with a bunch of [FIN]s, as in the "northern European" [FIN]NS, HU[FIN]ESS, RE[FIN]ANCE, [FIN]ISHERS ("ones eligible for marathon prizes" --- what a dreadful clue), and DORSAL [FIN]S.  Apparently if you play connect the dots with these [FIN] boxes you end up with a picture of a fin.  Huh.

In electromagnetism, a DIPOLE is a circulation of electric charges, or a separation of positive and negative charges.  In radio, it's a basic antenna, also called a doublet, that approximates this current with a node on each ed of two poles.  The most common form is the old rabbit ears antenna on TVs.

For "caffeinated drink with tapioca balls" I put *THAI TEA but it's BOBA TEA.  I knew that, dammit!

Are the Jurassic Park films really so beloved that they have deep fan bases like Harry Potter and Star Wars?  I mean, who can rattle off the top of their head the name of Laure Dern's character, Dr. ELLIE Sattler?

Is HGTS. really an acceptable abbreviation of heights? It looks stupid.

"Speedy wide receiver, perhaps" is DEEP THREAT.  I have never heard this term and it looks ridiculous to me.  Wasn't he revealed to be FBI agent Mark Felt?

"Symbols in calculus" is SIGMAS, which appeared on March 15.  This time I stupidly put *LEMMAS, which in mathematics are just propositions.

I know the author Martin AMIS, but not his 2010 book The Pregnant Widow, about the feminist revolution.

"Conventions" is STDS?  Why?

One of the many HYMNS I don't know is "In Dulci Jubilo."  It's a Christmas carol whose title means "in sweet rejoicing."

For "modest skirts" I put *MAXIS but it's MIDIS.

I also misspelled lyricist Sammy CAHN's name as *COHN.  He wrote "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

"Small herrings" are SPRATS.  These fish are part of the family Clupeidae, like herrings, but taxonomically they aren't the same thing as herrings.

I've never heard of the YUZU, a Scrabbleriffic yellow citrus resembling a small grapefruit.  It is also called Citrus junos or yuja (in Korea).

According to idiots, LEOS are "proud, fiery types."  We learned on February 15 that Leo is a fire sign, for some reason.

California town Santa ANA appeared on April 24.

Clever clues: "Opposite of colorblindness?" is BIGOTRY.  "Mother or sister" is NUN (while "fathers or brothers" are HES).  "Staff leader?" is CLEF --- it's at the left-hand side, or head, of a musical staff.  "Is there in spirit?" is HAUNTS.  "Pink, e.g." is POP STAR.  "Mid-crisis hire, perhaps" is PR TEAM.

Whew!  I admired the amount of thought and planning that went into this puzzle, and the finished product is pretty NEATO.  Still, I'm looking forward to the Monday breather.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 23, 2018

My time: 19:00.


Byron Walden is the creator of this themeless that had some bright spots and some questionable ones.  I liked LANGUAGE BARRIER ("problem in the Tower of Babel story"), TOUCHPAD ("Microsoft Surface surface"), and RADICAL FEMINIST.

I don't think ECONOMIC BOYCOTT is as good; although the clue "commercial break?" is clever, the answer is not really a widely used phrase.  A boycott is almost always economic.  I'm also not a fan of LOAN CAP ("limitation for borrowers").  No one says that, and I put *DUE DATE, which fits and also has the benefit of being real.

For "female koala" I panicked and put *COW.  It's DOE.  D'oh!  The male is called a buck.

An ARÊTE is a sharp-crested ridge of a mountain.  The word comes from the French for "fish bone."

I like the modern slang of CRIBS ("copies illegally"), but the definition is a bit off.  You can crib someone's notes and it isn't illegal, just ethically wrong.

The 1991 album ALANIS by Alanis Morissette was a cheesy, teen pop effort that was deemed similar to Debbie Gibson.  Later, she'd have the second-best-selling album by a female artist of all time.  Isn't that ironic?  No.

FOLIC acid is a kind of B vitamin present in leafy greens.  It is used to treat anemia.

I've written previously that "if you want to be a crossword champ, study your Anas."  Here's a new ANA, All Nippon Airways, the largest airline in Japan.

The clergyman in E.M. Forster's A Room With a View is Rev. Arthur BEEBE, a friend of the family that tries to stop Lucy Honeychurch from marrying George.

Montreal's Bell Centre, or Centre Bell as it's known there, is one of the many ICE HOCKEY ARENAS in Canada.  It also hosts lots of musical concerts.

Speaking of our neighbors to the north, "O CANADA" is a song we all know of, but did we know it "debuted on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in 1880"?  No, it never occurred to us.  Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is June 24 (tomorrow!), and it's the national holiday of Quebec.  The song was written by the amazingly-named Calixa Lavallée, a Union Army band musician during the US Civil War.  It didn't become the national anthem until exactly a century later, in 1980.

Richard ENGEL is the foreign news correspondent for NBC.  He is fluent in Arabic and has survived bombings, kidnappings, and firefights.

One who spends naira is a NIGERIAN.  One naira is divided into 100 kobo.  Currently 360 naira will get you one dollar, American.

We're just hopping all around the globe today.  Lake EYRE is Australia's lowest point, at 49 feet below sea level.  The indigenous name is Kati Thanda.

I'm not sure how anyone beyond a specialist is expected to know or guess this, but NCR is a major manufacturer of ATMs.

I wish DO I DARE had been clued with "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

The Arab Spring is largely considered to have begun with 2010 protests in TUNIS.

Speaking of Arabs, did you know AL QAEDA means "the base" or "the foundation"?

SEE NO Evil is a 1971 horror film starring Mia Farrow as a blind girl staying at a country manor who is hunted by a maniac.

And finally, DC's historical Metropolitan AME Church?  What is that?  It's the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  This came up on September 10, 2017.

Clever clues: "They're covered by boards" is AGENDAS.  "Depart unceremoniously?" is ELOPE.  "They're answered once and for all" is FAQS --- very clever.  "Ones hoping for prior approval?" is ABBOTS --- although I'm not sure this works, since a prior is lower in rank than an abbot.  "Childlike personality?" is CELEBRITY CHEF --- it took me a few beats to get that one.  "Card makeup" is BOUTS --- that took me a bit, too, even though I'm a boxing fan from childhood.

This was an okay puzzle.  Some fun, some eye-rolling.  Welp, back to my COUCH.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 22, 2018

My time: 13:03.


Andrew Kingsley is the mastermind behind this themeless Friday.  It's got a lot of fun, modern fill, including HOMOEROTIC, IDEALISTIC, VIDEO GAMES ("subject of some parental restrictions"), ALL NATURAL ("lacking hormones, say"), RODE ("heckled"), POST-RACIAL, GOOGLE MAPS, STARGAZING, and TELEPROMPTER.

I never really thought about the wood used to make electric guitars.  It turns out there are several preferred options.  Fender predominately used ash and ALDER.  Personally I like the look of mahogany.

I don't really get "medal, e.g." for PLACE.  Does it mean like a medal might be third place, blue ribbon second, etc?

The name of KAT Dennings, actress on "2 Broke Girls," came to me somehow.  Her character's name was Max Black!

The name of King Lear's loyal retainer is the Earl of KENT.  After being banished from the kingdom for suggesting that Cordelia shouldn't be disowned, he returns in the guise of Caius in order to continue to serve him.  What a Smithers!

I dislike the abbreviation ATT for attorney ("many a role on TV's 'Suits'").  I feel like it should be atty.

Jacob RIIS was a Danish-American journalist and social activism photographer.  He is most well known for his pioneering photos of the poor people living in cramped squalid conditions in the tenements of the Lower East Side.  One good way to remember how to spell his name is that he had two good "eyes" to see the poverty around him.

I'm not a gambler at all, so although I've read about the fantasy sports site DRAFT KINGS, it took quite a bit of crossfill for me to get it.

Did you know LUKE is the longest book in the New Testament?  Now you do!

I was totally baffled by "Brit in the news" back on January 6.  The wordplay popped up again today as "Brit discussing American politics."  It's Brit HUME, a journalist for ABC and Fox News.

Two mistakes slowed me down.  For "wiped out" I put *SPENT but it's the other definition, ATE IT.  And for "hey, don't look at me!" I put *I DIDN'T DO IT, which fits, but it's I'M INNOCENT!
Someday I'll remember the Oscar-winning Polish film IDA.  It appeared on November 12, 2017.  I had *AVA tentatively at first.

A lot of clever clues tickled me today: "Something to keep a watch on" is WRIST.  "Show of hands?" is TIME.  "What drivers try not to go over" is PAR.  "Peter or Paul, but not Mary" is TSAR.  "Take heat from?" is UNARM, which is a funny clue but bad fill.  "They can swing left or right" is PURPLE STATES.

I enjoyed this puzzle and its thoughtful clues!  It wasn't a SLOG at all, but a breath of fresh AIRE.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 21, 2018

My time: 14:21, not that great.


Milo Beckman and David Steinberg dreamed up today's horizontal puzzle, where six colors of the rainbow (indigo is rudely excluded) are showcased in six themed across lines, from red in the north to purple in the south.  The actual color names are not included in the answers, or indeed anywhere in the puzzle, however.

So, for example, in the first themed row we have EYES ("some cross-country flights"), CARPET ("path to an Oscar?"), and BARON.  They all start with an implied red.  The next row contains orange BITTERS and orange TREE ("Tropicana plant").  Then there's [Orange]MEN, which is a former name for Syracuse athletes.  In 2004 they changed their name to just the Syracuse Orange.

For yellow we have PEPPERS ("salad items picked at the midpoint of their maturity" --- green peppers are unripe, and red peppers are fully ripened) and BRICK ROAD.  The next step down the rainbow ladder gives us BAY PACKER ("Lambeau Field pro") and my beloved LANTERN.  For blue we get the Beatles' MEANIES, ridiculous Puritan LAWS that don't let you buy beer or toys on the Lord's day, and the University of Delaware mascot Blue HEN.

PROSE, HEARTS, and RAIN finishes the rainbow.

It was fun watching the theme unfold.  With no capper or clue that the puzzle has anything to do with rainbows or colors, it came as a surprise.  I enjoy that during the solving, but I miss having a punchline to bring it all together.

I was also hampered by some crossings at which I had to simply guess.  PERI Gilpin, who plays Roz on "Frasier," is not a name I would have gotten without help.

I put *AVIAN flu for ASIAN flu.  Tricky!

We all know London has one, but did you know Chicago has a neighborhood called HYDE Park as well?  It's on the Western coast of Lake Michigan.

Speaking of the Great Lakes, Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited is a train that runs daily between Chicago and New York City.  It goes through South Bend, Cleveland and Buffalo, along the south shore of Lake Michigan, the Mohawk River, and the ERIE Canal.

Speaking of trains, "grp. called when things go off the rails?" is NTSB, or National Transportation Safety Board.

Sticking with transportation and acronyms, the ICC, or Interstate Commerce Commission, is a former agency that regulated railroads.  It was abolished in 1995.

I have already whined about having to know such garbage as the astrological symbols in order.  Apparently ARIES is the start of the year, if you are a gullible hippie.

I was briefly slowed to see EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) without the C, for Commission, on the end.

I had trouble with PASTORATE, a "minister's office."  It looked right when the whole word was filled in, but not before.

A seminal 1961 Supreme Court case, MAPP v. Ohio, determined that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is not admissible in court.

"Prefix with skeptic" is EURO?  What's a EUROskeptic?  Someone opposed to the growing powers of the European Union.

I was unfortunately stymied by Den HAAG, Nederland, but of course it's just Dutch for the Hague.

For "Chilean child" I put *NINO but it's... NENE?  That's Spanish for baby or kid.  Watch me whip, watch me NENE.

Clever clue: "Horse leader?" is REIN.

And that rounds up today's summary.  Remember, it's okay to be OFF ONE'S GAME as long as one OWNS IT.  And with that, ADIOS, AMIGOS.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 20, 2018

My time: 9:41.


If you enjoy making OU into U, this puzzle by Jeffrey Wechsler is for yu.  The unexplained theme, sans capper, is that five phrases containing words with OU become phrases containing words that have U instead.  These are then clued as is.

"Well-behaved sister?" is PROPER NUN.  "Evidence of a cat fight?" is FUR ON THE FLOOR.  "TV bleep?" is CURSE CORRECTION.  "Impolite press conference attendees?" is CURT REPORTERS.  And "part of the queen's tea service?" is PALACE CUP.

It's fun with words, I guess, but I don't really know why.  Without a joke or capper to it, the theme kind of falls flat.  Like, what about cluing the song "Only You" or something?

Anyhoo, the rest of the fill.  Not a lot of new stuff for me.

The Q5 and the Q7 are AUDI models of SUV.  Those are dumb names for car models.

"Real dogs eat meat" was a tongue in cheek slogan used by ALPO.  There was even a book!

I couldn't remember at first the name of Alice's cat in Through the Looking-Glass.  It's DINAH.

For "Disney's fourth animated film" I put *BAMBI but it's DUMBO.  The latter came out in 1941, while Bambi was fifth at 1942.

The ALERO was the last model of Oldsmobile, produced 1999 to 2004.

"Goes by livery taxi" is HIRES A CAR --- not *HAILS A CAB.

Jacques PEPIN is a beloved French chef, star of several cooking shows since the 1980s.

Did you know OBAMA is the president with the most southerly birthplace?  Me neither.  It's not intuitive. Hawaii is south of Texas?

Clever clues: "Lump in one's throat" is UVULA.  "Extended sentence?" is RUN-ON.  "A firecracker goes in one" is ARC --- not *EAR!  That's dangerous!  "111 things?" is ONES.  It's a fine line between clever and stupid.

If I knew most of the clues, why did this take so long today?  Maybe I'm just a DUMBO.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

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 Only Amendment Worth Learning or Keeping), true American Peter Gordon has a TRIGGER / WARNING for you.  (Oddly, this answer is clued as "caution before a potentially upsetting lecture," which means someone thinks it's only used among fearful freshmen, but I see the phrase used in all manner of places and contexts.)

The three themed answers are RIDES SHOTGUN, RIFLE THROUGH, and BAZOOKA BUBBLEGUM.  Armed with that knowledge, let's move on.

I loved the movie ZOOTOPIA.  I had forgotten its tagline was "Welcome to the urban jungle."

GREEK food moussaka came up in a clue on August 8, 2017 (noted then as including feta),  while souvlaki is meat on a skewer.

Did you know an ERG is one ten millionth (10−7) of a joule?  An erg is the amount of work done by a force of one dyne exerted for a distance of one centimeter.   It seems like the only way to define units is by using other units.  It's units all the way down.

"The Sleeping Gypsy," by ROUSSEAU, is one of my favorites!

"Three up, three down threesome" made absolutely zero sense to me.  It means there's three OUTS in an inning, and no batter on base.

The New York Times crossword absolutely adores corporate acquisitions.  Today we learn that Verizon bought MCI, a telecommunications company with itself a dizzyingly complex history of name changes and buy-outs, for 7.6 billion dollars in 2005.  Also in 2005, their CEO Bernard Ebbers went to prison for 25 years for securities fraud.

SANREMO, an Italian resort city, came up on October 11, 2017.

I liked the theme of this one, though the clues were pretty blah: no wordplay, and mostly straight-up synonym definitions.  Well, they can't all STUN us with their brilliance.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 18, 2018

My time: 4:25.


Ross Trudeau makes sure we're receiving his message in this puzzle which showcases the humble act of telephoning.  Clued in a straightforward manner are PHONE JACK, DIAL SOAP, CALL TO ORDER, and RING POPS.  The astute solver may have noticed that the first words of all these phrases are synonyms of "to call on the phone."  This also holds true for the capper: they're all BUZZWORDS, see.

I was not aware that the MACADAMIA came from Australia.  I knew it was grown in Hawaii.  The macadamia is the only native Australian crop that has ever been developed and traded internationally as a commercial food product. As the leading producer of macadamias in the world, Australia contributes more than 30% of the global crop.

I didn't notice TANIA Raymonde on "Lost" when I watched it.  However, I do enjoy her role in "Goliath."  And now, I've heard her name!

On June 14, I complained about soon as.  At least this time it's AS SOON!

ETTA James comes up a lot in puzzles.  Here she's clued as having the song "At Last."

WAIKIKI is Hawaii's famed surfing spot that's somewhat troublesome to spell.  It's a beachfront neighborhood made up of six distinct beaches in O'ahu.  The name WAIKIKI means "spouting fresh water" in the Hawaiian language, after the springs and streams that once separated it from the interior.

I liked some of the less common fill on this one: BASE PAY, CANNED IT ("stopped all that yapping"), UNICOLOR, AMPS UP, SNAIL MAIL.  Otherwise it's a fairly SO-SO puzzle, with lots of straightforward, literal clues.  And we really don't need any more amo, amas, AMAT in puzzles ever again.  In AWL, I had very little trouble with it.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 17, 2018

My time: 25:37.


The tricky trio of Amanda Chung, Karl Ni, and Erik Asgard teamed up to make this "Tricky Trios" puzzle.  Playing off of the concept of LAST ONE STANDING ("survivor of an all-out brawl"), they showcase four famous trios, with the final member of the three found in the intersecting Down answer --- "standing" up rather than running left to right, you see.

At first I thought it was a rebus, with the last member of each trio taking up one square, which slowed me down.  But it isn't a rebus; the final word has just been moved to another answer and in the upright vertical position.

"Breakfast trio" is SNAP, CRACKLE, AND [po]P, crossed with POPULAR OPINION, cleverly clued as "in view?"  I was baffled by the puppet trio of KUKLA, FRAN, AND [olli]E when it originally appeared on November 10, 2017, but thanks to that past answer, it came easier.  It's crossed with ROLLIE, which the authors claim is slang for a "certain expensive watch" (a Rolex).  Next is "sailing trio" WYNKEN, BLYNKEN, AND [no]D, crossed with ANNO DOMINI.  (I spelled those first two named with I's originally, which cost me some time.)  Last we have folk trio PETER, PAUL, AND [mar]Y, crossed with MAMMARY GLAND, amusingly clued as "nursing facility?"

In "Otello," the opera by Verdi, Otello is a TENOR role.

Speaking of Shakespeare, IRA Aldridge was a 19th century African-American Shakespearean actor.  He was married twice, once to an Englishwoman, once to a Swedish woman, and had a family in England. Two of his daughters became professional opera singers.  He played Othello!

I didn't know that WNYC was the producer of "Radiolab," but I like answers like this that are easy to guess after a few letters.

I've never seen the ABC TV show "Black-ish."  It centers on the Johnson family, of which the youngest daughter is DIANE, played by Marsai Martin.

I had no idea that HELSINKI was an archipelago with about 330 islands.

I've heard the Righteous Brothers song "Little Latin LUPE Lu" referenced countless times in Jonathan Richman's song "Parties in the USA," but I never really heard it right.  I thought it might be Louie Lou.  Anyway, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels and the Kingsmen also had hits with the song; Bruce Springsteen even performs it on tour.

Director Taika WAITITI is a new one to me, but he made Eagle vs. Shark and Thor: Ragnarok, both of which I enjoyed.

"Something ratable by number of Pinocchios" is a LIE; this is a reference to the Washington Post's Fact Checker.

We all know what NASCAR is, but we may not know the name of Charlotte Motor Speedway (formerly Lowe's Motor Speedway), an oval racetrack that hosts car racing.

"Upholsterer's fabric" is BROCADE, a silken, usually embossed cloth with silver or gold threads.  Interestingly, the word comes from the same root as broccoli.

TAOS has come up before as a resort, but here it's an "eponymous New Mexico tribe."  They're a Pueblo tribe.

I don't like "have AN IN with."  Bad clue, bad fill.

North Carolina university ELON has appeared several times, but this is the first time the puzzle has clued it has having sports teams called the Phoenix.

I didn't see the 2015 Mad Max movie, so I didn't even know Charlize Theron was in it, let alone that her character's name is Imperator FURIOSA.  Spoilers!

Predominately Canadian tribe the CREE appeared on October 17, 2017.

Did you know Ford made the Mercury, or MERCS as their close buddies call them?  I wrote that exact sentence on October 28, 2017.

"Camera with a mirror" is SLR.  One day I'll know this.

Clever clues: "Fall guy?" is HUMPTY.  "Strip pokers?" is AWLS.  "Goes with" is SEES.

OOF, look at that time.  I didn't exactly kick ASS on this puzzle,  But it did provide a lot of AHAS.  I liked the repeated clue "underworld" for MAFIA and HADES.  I liked TAKE TO THE HILLS and SHRINKY DINKS and POTAGE.  It was edutaining!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 16, 2018

My time: 17:26.


Sam Trabucco wrote this modern themeless.  Lots of cutting-edge fill in this one, like NETFLIX ORIGINAL, EXCUSE YOU, ON FLEEK ("flawlessly styled, in modern slang"), BOSS ("cool, colloquially"), ZERO TO HERO, LEO MESSI, BENTO BOX, and GEL-IN SOLES ("comfy shoe features").  The funniest answer ever might be FAT ELVIS ("the King, late in his career").  Also, "embiggen" as a clue is always amusing.

I approve!  And now to the stuff that troubled me.

"Letters before Q" tricked me.  I put *MNOP like a jackass.  It's the more modern LGBT.

We all know Anderson Cooper, that rakishly handsome daredevil reporter and anchorman, but do we know that he took a break from the news to host two seasons of reality TV series "THE MOLE"?  No.  Did we know there was a TV series of that name?  Vaguely.

The VIA VENETO, properly Via Vittorio Veneto, is one of the most famous, elegant, and expensive streets of Rome, Italy.  It's named after a WWI battle.  The film La Dolce Vita took place there.

I got stuck for a while because I inexplicably had *OVATE for "tub-thump" rather than, of course, ORATE.

The ABC ISLANDS, off the north coast of Venezuela, refers to three of the Lesser Antilles: Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire.  They are autonomous, but part of the Netherlands.  Bonaire is known for being a "diving paradise", with ecotourism playing a large part in its economy. The islands have a huge variety of wildlife, including flamingoes and four species of sea turtle.

"Red Spanish wine" is RIOJA, a well-known blend named after its region.  I don't know anything about it; I would have written rojo if it had fit.

IDAHO STATE is a school in the Big Sky Conference, which is something something football.  ISU's mascot is the Bengals, which makes no sense.

I'm proud that knew the Frankish king CLOVIS and that NINE is the highest score in baccarat.  I know some high culture!

Luxury Hyundai model AZERA appeared on January 6.

Greek colonnade STOA appeared, clued as "site of Zeno's teaching," on January 17.

Clever clues: "Good time to build a castle?" is LOW TIDE.  "Hero of New Orleans" is PO' BOY.  "Doctor's orders?" is AHS.  "Sticky patch" is DECAL.  The very vague "some rolls" is SUSHI.  "Fair game" is RING TOSS.

This was an exceptionally funny, very well executed puzzle, the best in a long time.  It definitely WON OVER me!  I think it should WIN AN OSCAR.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 15, 2018

My time: 16:52, better than average but nearly twice as slow as my record.


Sam Ezersky built this Friday themeless which gave me a bit of trouble, what with its "history" and "culture" questions.  Some of the clues are just plain devious, such as: "like the Trix rabbit."  LOP-EARED.  Way to throw us off the scent.  I like the modern-ish fill DOOMSDAY CLOCK, DNA BANK ("modern sort of Noah's ark"), DO THE HUSTLE, SWOLE, and KYLO REN.

Per Wikipedia, the AGA KHAN is a title used also as a name by the Imam of the Nizari Ismailis, whose holder since 1957 is the 49th Imam, Prince Shah Karim Al Husseini Aga Khan IV (b. 1936).  Four people have used this title since 1800.  The Nazari are a small branch of Shia Muslims, who teach the value of reason and pluralism.

There are several awards for the mystery genre, but the AGATHA has been given out since 1988 by Malice Domestic, a fan convention.

I like how clowns BOZO and BOBO are intersected.  BOBO Barnett came up way back on October 23, 2017.

Did you know Pac-Man was facetiously named "Man of the Year" in 1982 by MAD MAGAZINE?  Me neither.

EL CID famously led the conquest of Valencia, and so was called Prince of Valencia.  He died there in 1099.  EL CID also appeared on December 13, 2017.

In other ancient history, PHONECIA occupied parts of modern-day Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, including Sidon, Lebanon's third-largest city, and Tyre in Lebanon.

A new word to me is ACETAL, an organic compound with two alcohol molecules.  They are apparently used in perfumery?  Organic chemistry may as well be Japanese to me.

"Spanish pro soccer association" is LA LIGA, a.k.a. the Primera División, a.k.a. La Liga Santander (because it has promotions with Santander Bank), the men's top professional association football division of the Spanish football league system.

APIA is the capital of Samoa, which I know, but only when reminded.  "Robert Louis Stevenson's burial place" would be a more interesting clue.

"Border river in the Midwest" is the WABASH, which runs from Ohio south to form the Indiana-Illinois border.  It's the state river of Indiana.  Many towns, two counties, two colleges, and a canal are named after it.

In other OHIO news, I-70 and I-75 meet at Dayton.

As I've written before, I don't know anything at all about musical notation.  G CLEFS are also called treble clefs.  I guess they're found "near key signatures?" A much better clue for this word would have been "Do-wop and R&B group of the '50s and '60s."

I haven't heard of the term OTC STOCK, which means a stock traded in some context other than the NYSE or other exchange.

OSLO, Norway, is one of many cities that tries to have a car-free city zone.

The INCUS bone appeared on October 30, 2017.

ION GUN appeared, to my surprise, on December 7, 2017.

Clever clues: "Ones sticking around a desert?" is CACTI.  "1960s TV unit" is F-TROOP, ha! "Places for aces or cases" is COURTS.  "Critic's pick?" is NIT.  "Commercial lead-in to X" is UBER.

This was a pretty tough Friday, but I enjoyed the puzzle.  I liked the tricky wordplay.  This Ezersky fellow's got RAW TALENT!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: June 14, 2018

My time: 11:57.


Sorry, Joe Krozel, but this one was pretty boring and poorly executed.  The theme is a word ladder, which is inherently boring when you get clues like "third word..." and "eighth word..."  Even the clues are bored --- see those ellipses?  They can barely get the words out.

And it's poorly executed, because it has multiple superfluous steps.  The complete word ladder runs:


See how PALL could go straight to CALL without the unnecessary couple of words between them?

The capper of these blah theme is "way to put legislators on record," which highlights three of the words: ROLL CALL VOTE.  Okay, but... why?

The fill wasn't exactly thrilling either.

"Double purpose viewing equipment" TV/VCR should have "obsolete" in front of it.

AISHA Tyler is a talk show host, actress, and producer, but I know her best as the voice of Lana Kane in "Archer."

Of the famous ARLOS, we all know Guthrie, but Arlo Bates was a 19th century novelist who is largely forgotten now.

The constellation Aquila appeared as an answer on September 2, 2017, but this is the first time we've had ALTAIR, also called Alpha Aquilae and the twelfth  brightest star in the night sky.  It is located in the neck of the eagle.

In legal jargon, criminal intent is described as MENS REA, Latin for "guilty mind."

"Part of ASAP" is a bad clue for truly bad fill: SOON AS.  Even as soon would have been better.

Gum arabic is the hardened sap of the ACACIA tree, an African shrub also known as a wattle.  Ha ha!

I'm not really on a first name basis with WILLEM de Kooning, a modern Dutch-American abstract expressionist painter and sculptor.  I'd probably vote him down in the Infinite Art Tournament against most anybody.

The powerful engine term HEMI last appeared on March 24.

Clever clues: "Start to instigate?" is LETTER I. 

Well, I HADST a poor time with this puzzle.  Boring go-nowhere clues and a theme that falls flat took me from being AMPED to feeling not so RAD.  Some editor needed to AMEND this theme.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 13, 2018

My time: 7:28, not too shabby.


This puzzle by Michael Hawkins is tailor-made to appeal to those who enjoy sartorial-themed phrases.  "Not be contained anymore" is BURST AT THE SEAMS.  "Forget one's place in the conversation" is LOSE THE THREAD.  "Have measurable impact" is MOVE THE NEEDLE.  The clunkiest one is LEAVE IN STITCHES, clued as "make laugh hysterically," but both seem quite off without their transitive object.  You leave them in stitches.  Without that pronoun, it could be clued as "what a surgeon might do to a wound."


"Side dish at a Chinese restaurant" is BROWN RICE?  Hardly ever.  It's fried or steamed white, traditionally.

"Lohengrin" is an OPERA by Richard Wagner, most famous for its Bridal Chorus, also called the Wedding March.  I haven't heard of "Lakmé," or its composer Léo Delibes.  It is set in India and is about the titular Brahmin's daughter who falls in love with a British officer.

I don't think of MEALY as "having fine granules," because I'm used to it being a descriptor of soft fruit, but its other definition is containing meal (farinaceous), so there we are.

AVIS owns Zipcar, a "car sharing" service.  It's not a ride-hailing service like Uber, but more like a timeshare for cars.

For "old cylindrical music collectible" I could only think of those Edison phonograph wax cylinders, but it's PIANO ROLL, a roll of perforated paper used to make player pianos run.

Franz Joseph HAYDN was known as "The Father of the Symphony" and "The Father of the String Quartet."  Beethoven was a pupil of his and apparently did not enjoy his teaching.

"Life Is Good" is rapped by NAS.  There is, has been, and will be only NAS.  No other rappers exist.  Just NAS. 

"Another Suitcase in Another Hall," from EVITA, was a clue on March 24.

I even remembered that hockey feint DEKE appeared on October 29, 2017.

Clever clues: "Org. with oral reports?" is ADA.  "Gives hands down?" is DEALS.  "Reactions to buffets?" is OWS.  "Net asset?" is GOALIE.

Well, this was a fine, fresh, fun puzzle.  My time is nothing to CRO about, but ISLE be okay.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 12, 2018

My time: 6:16.


Put on your crossword-solvin' shoes for this one by Samuel A. Donaldson and Tracy Gray, which imagines punny footwear for three occupations, buying shoes JUST FOR KICKS.  A cat burglar would buy and wear SUCTION PUMPS, a synchronized swimmer would wear WATER MOCCASINS, and an event coordinator wears PARTY PLATFORMS.

ABIE has been clued three different ways since I've been keeping track: the Jewish protagonist in the play "Abie's Irish Rose," the comic strip about the Agent, and today as a song from "Hair."  The song "ABIE Baby" is about working for the man, and how we're not going to take it anymore.  The title character of the song is Abe Lincoln.  (I've been pronouncing it "Abby!"  Is it "Ay-bee??")

Never heard of MIRIAM Makeba, "Mama Africa," a South African singer and UN Goodwill Ambassador.  Here is her "Click Song."

The Camaro IROC appeared on September 7, 2017.  Today we see the Camaro IROC-Z, the "Camaro that thinks it's a Corvette," introduced in 1984.

Clever clues: "Bear that's up at night?" is URSA.  "Lion's pride?" is MANE.  "Pressing concerns for astronauts?" is G-FORCES.

That's it!  Well GEE, WHAT A TREAT this puzzle was.  I liked the funny theme, with its quite witty capper.  Nice and easy for a Tuesday.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 11, 2018

My time: 4:11.  Yeah, baby!


The very clever conceit of this puzzle by Gary Cee is bringing the phrase DRINKS ARE ON ME to life.  Four different cocktails are clued (using their non-alcoholic definitions), and just under these Across answers run the letters ME.  For example, a "motorcycle attachment" is a SIDECAR.  This answer sits atop EMERIL.  A MIMOSA is not just a bubbly brunch drink but a "tropical tree with hot pink flowers."  This answer is placed over MEEK.

The third themed clue is GIMLET, clued as its other meaning of a borer, and this appears over NAME TAG.  Last and possibly least is "Danny DeVito's role in 1975's 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'"  This turns out to be an inmate named MARTINI.  (In a memorable scene, he rips a ten-cent cigarette in half so he can bet a nickel in poker.)  This answer runs just over ON MERIT.

Four drinks, all on ME.  Hilarity!

"French ballroom dance" is GAVOTTE.  It supposedly gets its name from a folk dance of the Gavot, the people of the Pays de Gap region of Dauphiné in the southeast of France.  Seems a little obscure for a Monday.

The NEA here is not the National Endowment for the Arts but the largest union in America, the 3.2 million strong National Education Association.

And that's it!  Only the French dance was new to me.  I stayed COOL from the OUTSET and tore through this one in only about 40 seconds slower than my record.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 10, 2018

My time: 30:27, about average.


This one's got a theme, folks.  Ruth Bloomfield Margolin gives us 'Rush Hour Headaches."  Common phrases are replaced with homophones and then clued as they read.  They are all vaguely to do with commuting, though some clues are more... streamlined than others.

"Lane restricted to allow motorcades through?" is CHUTE FOR THE STARS.  Why is lane "chute?"  No one calls a lane of a street a "chute."  Moving on...  "Pressing and shoving me as I enter the subway" is CRAMPING MY STILE.  And so on.

As I say, some of the clues are a bit wordy.  I NEED TO LOSE WAIT implies sitting in traffic, but what does a tollbooth have to do with it ("this tollbooth line will make me late")?  BUSSED YOUR BUTT is a good pun, but that clue is clunky: "took public transportation while one's wheels were in the shop?"  The last seven words are unnecessary and misleading.  ROUTE OF ALL EVIL could certainly work, but "accidents, detours and construction" aren't "evil."

GIMME A BRAKE works, and MAKE THE TEEM is kind of funny.  But this theme needed an editor, badly!

The rest of the fill had its share of problems for me.  I'll try to streamline it.

"Nap for a loafer?" is SUEDE, because "nap" here means the fibers standing up on the material.

"As mine of HERS, so HERS is set on mine" is said by Romeo of his "heart's dear love" set on Juliet, in Act 2, scene iii.

The landmark case Brown v. The Board of Education of TOPEKA struck down the concept of "separate but equal."  Linda Brown was the plaintiff in question, a little girl who lived in TOPEKA.

D-CON is a maker of mousetraps and other types of rodent control.

"Bit of dangly jewelry" is EARBOB, which I've never heard and is just plain silly.

For "shellac and myrrh" I put *ROSINS but it's RESINS; they're nearly the same.  Rosin is a solid form of resin.

"The Music Man," about a confidence man who sells Midwestern townsfolk musical instruments and uniforms, but plans to skip town without giving any lessons.  It was written by Meredith Wilson, based on his boyhood in Iowa.  The locals in the show, therefore, are IOWANS.  The 1962 film version is set in River City, Iowa.

William Hewlett, of Hewlett-Packard fame, was an ALUM of MIT.  He got a Master's of Science in 1936.

"Brave adversary" is MET.  This confused the hell out of me until I realized it was about sports: The New York Mets vs. the Atlanta Braves.  Good clue!

Where San Francisco's public transport is the BART, in Philadelphia the carless masses take the SEPTA, or SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority.

ARTUR Rubenstein's name is usually transcribed as Arthur.  He was a Polish-Amerian pianist who started as a child prodigy and played professionally from the early 1900s to the 1970s.

I haven't seen "Quantico," nor heard of its star, Priyanka CHOPRA, an Indian actress, singer, and winner of the 2000 Miss World Pageant.  Indians are mad at her because of a TV show she didn't write.

Hawaii's IOLANI palace, royal residence of the Kamehameha Dynasty, appeared on January 4.

Utah's petroglyph-rich SEGO Canyon appeared way back on October 1, 2017.

"Refrigerator handle" AMANA has appeared several times.

Clever clues: "Not taking a bow?" is ASTERN.  "Rule against singing" is OMERTA.  "Matter of interest?" is RATE.  "Canine coat?' is ENAMEL.  "Time release" is ISSUE.  "House work?" is LAWS.  "Help make the bed?" is HOE.

This was SRTA tough!  The fill had good spots (ARMY MOM, SNEETCH) and less than good spots (SEINER, "net fisher").  But the theme was definitely a MESS.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Saturday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 9, 2018

My time: 19:02.


Roland Huget designed today's Saturday themeless, which looks like a square Pokéball and has seven answers that span the entire width of the puzzle.  AMERICAN CUISINE, TESTED THE WATERS, and BIOLUMINESCENCE (one of the first answers I entered) are fine, but I don't think LAST THE DISTANCE is something anyone says.

"Descendant of Ishmael" is ARAB; here Ishmael isn't the Moby-Dick narrator but the figure from the Torah and the Quran.  The clue, however, is a gross oversimplification.  By some traditions, some Arabs are descendants of Ishmael; other Christians say this isn't the case.

Why is le jardin at its height in ETE?  Isn't it in the printemps?

I haven't heard of the phrase CEREMONIAL START ("race day opening event").  The Iditarod has one.

"Relatives of guppies" are PLATIES, which I never heard of.  The platy is common to the east coast waters of Central America and Mexico. They bear live young, similar to other fish of the family Poeciliidae, such as the guppy and molly.

I wasn't sure what a windjammer was, so found it hard to solve the question of its setting.  It's a square sail cargo ship, so it belongs in the SEA.

In other transportation mysteries, an AWACS plane is one with radar used to detect other vehicles for surveillance or fighting purposes.  It stands for Airborne early Warning And Control System.  It seems to mostly be abbreviated AEW&C.

For "common French word that sounds like two letters of the alphabet" I put *AMI but it's ICI.  In retrospect, M.E. is not pronounced like *AMI.

For "feature of Wyane Manor" I put *BATCAVE but it's BATPOLE, which tickles me.

Why is CITS. an abbreviation for residents?  It's short for citizens.  Howdy, fellow cit!

Today I learned that not only has OSAKA been destroyed by Godzilla, but it's also home of the first Universal Studios outside the US.  It opened in 2001.  The other parks are in Orlando, Hollywood, and Singapore.

Here's a movie that's a pop culture mainstay and known instantly by every Anglophone: RIO RITA, a 1942 Abbott and Costello, in which they play Doc and Wishy, respectively.  They run into some Nazi agents who want to smuggle bombs into the USA from a Mexican border hotel.

For "plate armor designed to protect the thighs" I confidently and smugly put *CUISSES, but it's --- wha?? --- TASSETS.  Never heard of it.

Also never heard of Jorge BOLET, a Cuban-American pianist and teacher who worked from the 1950s to '70s.  His playing was criticized in America as being too focused on romantic virtuosity.   Only in 1974 did he come to national prominence, with a stupendous recital in that year at Carnegie Hall, which sealed his reputation.

"Glee character in a wheelchair" is ARTIE Adams, and this clue appeared way back on September 8, 2017.

Clever clues: "They may require more than one return" is SEPARATE INCOMES.  "Haus call?" is ACH, which doesn't make a whole lot sense.  I guess a German might "call out" "Ach!" for some reason?  "Source of some Mideast calls" is MINARET.  "Makings of a plot" is SEEDBED.  I particularly like "Exercise in the economy of language," TWEET.

As you know, I care about my solve times.  I guess I'm just RESULTS ORIENTED.  I did better than average, but not great; this wasn't my day.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 8, 2018

My time: 10:07.


I didn't finish Thursday's puzzle, thanks to a particularly devilish theme and some names I simply didn't know.

Caleb Madison is responsible for this themeless which features some fresh modern fill: BEATS BY DRE, TRANSGENDER ("taking on a new identity, in a way"), GO COMMANDO, SEES ACTION, THE MET GALA ("annual fashion event since 1948" --- I guess it's not that modern), and CINNABON.  Even GINORMOUS!

The Romanian currency unit leu appeared on December 19, 2017, but this is the first time the plural LEI has appeared.  Currently 4 LEI will get you one U.S. dollar.

"One taking a survey" gave me too much pause because I was reasonably expecting pollster and not the little-used POLLER.

I guessed the clue pretty easily, but I couldn't have told you beforehand that Beethoven wrote not one PIANO SONATA, but thirty-two of them.

Guess who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980?  Edwin Donald "Duke" SNIDER, that's who!  He played for the Dodgers and was known as "the Silver Fox" and "the Duke of Flatbush."  Never heard of him.

An OSSICLE is any tiny bone, but usually the three bones of the ear: the anvil (incus), hammer (malleus), and stirrup (stapes).

New to me: James F. BYRNES, Truman's secretary of state.  On balance, I don't care for him at all.   He supported a lot of FDR's economic policies, but opposed anti-lynching laws and fair labor laws.  As governor of South Carolina, he opposed Brown v. Board of Education and was a proponent of "separate but equal" policies in schools.  He even supported Strom Thurmond's switch to the Republican Party in 1964.

I once again accidentally put *YENTL for YENTE in the clue "to whom 'Matchmaker, Matchmaker' is sung," despite going over the same ground on May 4.

Clever clues: "Sellers of buckets" is KFCS.  "One hanging around in a deli?" is SALAMI.  "Fifth place?" is BOTTLE.  "Stone that's cast" is EMMA.

After a week of tough stuff, I did pretty well on this Friday!  There were a few BITS that needed adjusting, but mostly I did it SPEEDILY.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times puzzle times: June 6, 2018

My time: 8:58.


Richard F. Mausser incorporates (symmetrically, to his credit) a quip "attributed to British comedian Ken Dodd:" I HAVE / KLEPTOMANIA, BUT / WHEN IT GETS BAD / I TAKE SOMETHING / FOR IT.  Ha, that's a knee slapper.

Dodd was a music-hall singer and rapid-fire comedian who was famed for his three-hour comedy performances, and his props known as "tickle sticks."

What "Missouri city, informally" is  ST. JOE?  St. Joseph, known for being the birthplace of Eminem.  I put *ST. LOU.

"Suffix with narc-" got me good. I put *-OTIC for a long time and couldn't understand why it clearly didn't fit.  It's -OSIS.  I must have been in a state of narcosis myself.

I did not know that scientists have found trace amounts of OPAL gemstones on Mars (or at least, on a Martian meteorite?). They may contain microbes!

The Westminster Bridge is a bridge on the river THAMES, painted green like the House of Commons which is close by.

For "Algonquian language" I thought about putting *ONEIDA, but they're Iroquois of course.  It's OJIBWA (often spelled Ojibwe), who mostly live in Canada.

The cue that gave me the most pause was "kind of off-season baseball league."  Even as it became clear the answer was HOT STOVE, I wondered if it was right.  I have never in my forty-something years heard of this term.  It's not a league at all, but a euphemism, like armchair quarterback.  It refers to fans gathering around a hot stove in the winter to rehash all the sports action the saw during the season.

Speaking of sports, "Big" BEN Roethlisberger is a quarterback for the Steelers.  A two-time Super Bowl champion, he also is the youngest Super Bowl-winning quarterback in NFL history, leading a win in Super Bowl XL at the age of 23.

Speaking of football, I uncharacteristically knew that the EAGLES were the champs this year became that fat moron Russian puppet in the Oval Office disinvited them after they said they wouldn't be visiting.

A school of whales is not just a pod but a GAM.  I vaguely remembered this from September 15, 2017.

CIA spook SPYS (styled S*P*Y*S) appeared on December 31, 2017.

Clever clues: "It's not free of charge" is ION.  "Mud" is JAVA.  "Needing quarters, maybe" is COIN-OP (I kept thinking about needing shelter).

This one had a lot of clues that were hard to ENWRAP my head around.  It was NOT SO easy!  I guess I'm a little SLOW.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 5, 2018

My time: 7:34, ugh.


Kudos to Peter Gordon for working into today's puzzle not three but four idioms which use a food plus a body organ to describe a trait.  When someone is "klutzy" we say they're BUTTER-FINGERED; "stupid" people are MUTTON-HEADED.  If you're "eloquent" you're HONEY-TONGUED, and another way to say "cowardly" is CHICKEN-LIVERED.

A deliciously clever theme for a Tuesday!  Bravo.

For "person handing out chocolate cigars, maybe" I put *NEW FATHER but that just happens to fit the real answer, PROUD PAPA.

Dodge produced the subcompact hatchbacks OMNIS from 1977-1990.

"Expert in calculus" is DDS.  Doctor of Dental Surgery?  Yes, because calculus is another name for tartar.  Clever clue!  Uninformed solver.

"Goatish" is a good clue for LECHEROUS.  PIE-EYED is a good answer for "drunk."

Jean SIBELIUS was an early 20th-century Finnish composer and violist.  A park in Helsinki, and an organ-like monument of metal pipes, are named after him.

NEWB is usually spelled *NOOB.

The island IONA, off of Scotland's peninsula the Ross of Mull, came up as a hidden word way back on October 3, 2017.

Clever clues: "Bad looking" is LEERING.  "Rock singer?" is LORELEI.  "Heat shields?" is BADGES.   "Like some peanuts and winter roads" is SALTED.  "Person whose inner child has been released?" is MOTHER.

Again, there was not much new to me today, but I had a slow-ISH time.  I don't know why.  It's SNOT that the theme was overly puzzling.  Sometimes the brain is sleepy I guess.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Monday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 4, 2018

My time: 5:20.


Zhouqin Burnikel showcases the Hilton hotel brand DOUBLE TREE with three phrases in this puzzle.

BALDERDASH has two trees: alder and ash.  STEALTH FIGHTER contains teal and fig.

The last clued phrase is new-ish to me.  A "boneless cut named for a New York restaurant" is DELMONICO STEAK, a strip cut or short loin.  It was the house cut at Delmonico's Restaurant in the 1840s and '50s.  However, no one remembers what the exact cut was originally.  Records were poor, the meaning of "sirloin" has changed, and so on.  This website claims that "the historical fact is that the original, authentic Delmonico Steak is, in modern terms, the first boneless top loin steak cut from the front of (anterior to) the short loin."  Anyway, as regards the theme to today's puzzle this phrase contains elm and teak.

I don't know "Meet the Press" host Chuck TODD.

"Some showy blossoms, informally" is GLADS.  Gladiolas grow in a huge array of colors.

Deborah KERR played Anna in The King and I.  She also had a leading role in the far better film From Here to Eternity.

Gotta memorize those state flowers!  The IRIS is the state flower of Tennessee.  Point of order, actually: the passion flower is the state wildflower, while the IRIS is the designated state cultivated flower.

Iraqi port city BASRA appeared on May 30.  Today it's clued as an anagram of arabs.

I had very little trouble with the fill, so it must have been the theme, with its long and obscure phrases (STEALTH FIGHTER, while totally kosher, isn't exactly in common coinage) that made me go so slow.  I gotta do faster!  DON'T BLOW IT, is what I should say to myself, or ELS I won't break any records.  AMEN TO THAT.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Saturday's New York Time spuzzle solved: June 2, 2018

My time: 20:17, a few minutes of that spent looking for typos


Trenton Charlson came up with this Saturday themeless which has a lot of fiendish vagueness, in both clues and fill.  I liked seeing TIME SLOT, UNSUNG HERO, YES AND NO ("it's complicated"), and a lot of other fresh phrases.  I'm not a big fan of GQ TYPE ("well-dressed, photogenic guy").

I've never heard of or forgot the nail care brand CUTEX.  When I saw the clue I thought it might be Essie again.

The MOHAVE is not just a desert, but a Native American tribe who once thrived around the Colorado River.

"Habitat for an ibex" is ALP.

Speaking of ungulates, the animal on the Michigan state flag is an ELK.  Two of them!  And an eagle!  And a hunter.

I know what a yogurt sauce with cucumbers is; that is, I can say its name.  But I'll be hornswoggled if I can spell TZATZIKI without help!

The PTA was apparently founded in 1897 as the National Congress of Mothers.

Strobe lights typically use XENON GAS, or a flashtube, sometimes with colored gels.

Here's a groaner: "eBay feature" is CAPITAL B.

GODZILLA is well known as the destroyer of Tokyo many times over (and in American versions, New York or maybe Los Angeles?), but in some of the movies he battles giant monsters in OSAKA, bringing down property values in the process.

I didn't remember that Chris Farley played EL NINO on "SNL," but now I vaguely recall it.  He played it as if it were a luchador.  I'm more of a Matt Foley man myself.

The Golden Ratio symbol PHI first appeared on September 13, 2017, and twice more after that.  So this is the third time.  I ought to have it down by now.

California city Santa ANA last appeared April 24.

A metric ton of clues this time: "What might come after a pig or a sheep?" is E-I-E-I-O.  "Introduction to folks?" is THAT'S ALL.  "Closes, in a way" is SHAKES ON --- I had no idea whether this was properly filled in long after the grid was complete, because it made no sense to me.  It means as in closing a deal, shaking on it. "Part of many a street name" is ORDINAL.  "Good to go?" is TRAVEL SIZE.  "It may be in a sling" is GIN (not *ARM!).  "Spare item?" is TIRE IRON.  "Go out, but not for long?" is TAKE A NAP.  "Main entrances?" is MANHOLES.  "One involved in mass production?" is ALTAR BOY.

This was a tough one because of all that wordplay!  I enjoyed it, but it was hard to finish, and I AM not TEA ZIN!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday's New York Times puzzle solved: June 1, 2018

My time: 13:57.


Andrew J. Ries constructed this not-too-hard, not-too-easy Friday themeless.  There's one answer that crosses the whole grid, which I got pretty quickly since it's a term of art in my profession: TEACHABLE MOMENT.  Other fun fill is ICE PALACE, PINA COLADA, MOP TOP ("shaggy do"), COUSIN ITT, PTEROSAUR, HOLY SPIRIT, and GO TIME ("crucial hour, informally").

Aunt ELLER, a character in the musical "Oklahoma!," is a common crossword answer.  I vaguely remember this from my pre-blog days of doing the puzzle.

I've never heard of Hanauma Bay, a nature preserve and underwater park in OAHU.

"Intuition, jocularly" is SPIDEY-SENSE.  Everyone says that!  So colloquial and jocular.

NIALL Ferguson is a right-wing sleazeball whose books include Civilization: The West and the Rest and The Ascent of Money, so you pretty much know where he's coming from.  He's known for his defense of the Raj and his bizarre defense of WWI-era Germany.  He's also been accused of trying to get "dirt" on liberal students.

I know the saxophonist Cannonball, but today it's all abut the Hall of Fame footballer Herb ADDERLEY, cornerback for the Packers and Cowboys.

In the same vein, I know the football guy John, but today it's all about Steve MADDEN, an American designer of boots, shoes, handbags, and so forth.

Remember the PTL Club, on TV?  The Jim and Tammy show?  Praise The Lord!  Or maybe People That Love!  On the PTL Network!  Drugging and raping and stealing, the Lord's work.

In 1968, the Turtles had a hit with "ELENORE," which I've heard plenty of times of classic rock radio.  However, I never knew that they wrote this as a satirical spoof of their own hit, "Happy Together," with deliberately silly lyrics ("Elenore, gee, I think you're swell, you're my pride and joy, et cetera").

The SCLERA is the white outer layer of the eyeball.

"European carrier" SAS appeared two days ago.

ORD is usually clued as Chicago O'Hare's code, but appeared as Fort ORD, a former military base on Monterey Bay named after Major General and living Scrabble rack Edward Otho Cresap Ord, on September 25, 2017.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian RON Chernow appeared on December 12, 2017.  Here he's clued as the author whose work inspired the musical "Hamilton."

"Booker's title" is SEN, which confused me at first even though the same wordplay was run on September 23, 2017.

Clever clues: "Life preservers?" is CEREAL BOXES.  "Prime rater, for short" is USDA.  "Health care coverage providers?" is SCRUBS.

A very nice puzzle, just the right difficulty FOR a Friday.   I feel good about it.