Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 31, 2018

My time: 15:46.


Peter Wentz is the brainchild behind this themeless Friday.  There's some genuinely tough stuff here, in terms of unexpected fill and vague cluing.  "He works with kids" is STAY-AT-HOME DAD --- I was half expecting it to be a joke about a shepherd.  "Go all out, whatever the cost" is SPARE NO EXPENSE.  "Pandora's domain" likewise tempts you thoughts of Greek mythology, but it's INTERNET RADIO.  "Dolly, e.g." is a cleverly vague clue for EWE.

"Garage installation" for SHOCKS isn't a clever clue so much as it is frustratingly vague.

I only know the word chintzy meaning cheap or tawdry; I didn't know that CHINTZES were a type of textile with floral decorations.

Not being a classical music guy, I have never heard of an OBOE d'amore.  It is a larger, alto oboe.

I know hip author TA-NEHISI COATES from his viral article on slavery reparations and for his celebrated "Black Panther" run for Marvel Comics, but I had forgotten he had a book of musings on race in America called Between the World and Me, and that he is a MacArthur Fellowship winner.  What a name!  What a great fill!  Love that he's in the crossword.

HART CRANE is a familiar name in American poetry, but I didn't know his debut collection was called White Buildings.

Apparently there is a museum dedicated to Salvador DALI in St. Petersburg, FL.  It is called The Dali Museum.  I'd like to go!

Of all the portrayers of the Hulk (technically of Dr. Banner, not the CGI id-monster), the one least in my mind is ERIC BANA.  Unfortunately *ED NORTON fits, and that's what I put.

Traditionally, a BRIS is performed on the eighth day of the infant's life.  Ew, how gross.

I vaguely remembered the name of architect Frank GEHRY, who designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, but needed crossfill to complete the middle letters.

I wasn't aware that BEET salad was a thing.

Alanis Morissette's debut album ALANIS was an answer on June 23.

'80s country singer K.T. OSLIN appeared on September 19, 2017, but I had forgotten, sadly.

Clever clues: "Can opener?" is HARD C.  "Source of many box office bombs?" is WAR MOVIE.  "Court order?" is OYEZ.  "Support staff"is CANE.  "Manufacturer of indoor cars" is OTIS.  "Plot element?" is ACRE.

This was a great Friday puzzle.  Fun fill, not too terribly hard, but challenging.  The END.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 30, 2018

My time: 14:31, good for a Thursday.


I was absolutely delighted by this theme, the cleverest I've seen in a while.  Grant Thackeray celebrates the humble but oh-so-useful AD BLOCK software by making four black squares stand in for the letters [AD] in several answers.

I got this answer (from the clue "popular browser extension") right off after knowing that "like zombies" had to be UNDE[AD], but not knowing how to deal with those too-few four letters.  Once I saw the capper clue, it all came together.

There are several fun, modern answers that use this trick, most amusingly [AD]OPT-A-RO[AD] ("prgram for reducing litter on highways"), BUTTLO[AD] ("whole lot, slagily"), and [AD]ORKABLE ("endearingly awkward, in slang").  Oh, and MANSPRE[AD] and [AD]ULTING!  It's like BuzzFeed up in here.

The one mildly off note (and this is a real nitpick) in the puzzle is the answer POP-UP clued as "temporary, as a store," when its use is so conflated with web ads that it seems jarring for the clue not to refer to that meaning, given the theme.

So, onto the fill.  It's good fill today, including some novel stuff like WEBINAR and SEE-'N'-SAY.

"Classic video game hero a.k.a. the Blue Bomber" was a tough start for me, because I'm not a game player and know virtually nothing about video game culture past "Doom."  It's MEGA MAN, star of the eponymous game series by Capcom.  Mega Man is colored blue due to the NES console's technical limitations: the color has the most shades in the console's limited 56-color palette, and the expanded selection was used to enhance Mega Man's detail.  There's nothing in the Wiki article about his nickname; it's a grassroots but now semi-official descriptor.

"Dorm VIPs" is both TA'S and BMOC.

T-STOPS are movie camera settings (opposed to F-stops) that indicate the actual transmission of brightness through the aperture of the lens.  It is a numerical value, for example 1.5.  The problem with f-stops is that they don’t take into account the efficiency of the lens on transmitting the light that enters it.  The T-stop can be seen as a real, "corrected" value.

It's been a long time since my high school Shakespeare class, and I had forgotten about the playwright Thomas KYD.  His most famous work is "The Spanish Tragedy," a revenge drama.

"Crunchy candy with a gummy string center" confused and repulsed me.  It's NERDS ROPE, which, ugh.

Did you know PERU is home to the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, founded in 1551?  I had no idea.  It is the National University of San Marcos, situated in Lima and charted by the royal decree of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.

I've never heard of ALLAN Bloom, though I think I recall some media rumblings over his 1987 vaguely conservative the-sky-is-falling look at American education, The Closing of the American Mind, when it came out.  Noam Chomsky dismissed the book as "mind-bogglingly stupid" for its canonistic approach to education.  Because, you know, change is scary.

Hey, it's Sir KAY again, King Arthur's foster brother!

Clever clues: "Pinker, say" is RARER.  "Place for pilots" is RANGETOP.  "Ride taken for a spin?" is CAROUSEL.  "Real stunner" is TASER.  "Number 2 or 6" refers to the presidents named [AD]AMS.

A very fun puzzle all around, and definitely a bit of a challenge.  It hits with a SLAM and doens't LET UP.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 29, 2018

My time: 10:29, two seconds slower than average.


I did this one in a bit of a torpor late at night.  I could have moved a little faster.  Not much was new to me, but it was slow going nevertheless. 

Enough whining, Alibi Ike.  Scrabble-winning name Alex Bajcz thought up this one, which offers geographical anagramming fun for the whole family.  In four clues, he asks about work in a metropolis, and the answer shows that the work done is an anagram of the city name.

"Work as a metropolitan health official?" is DIAGNOSE SAN DIEGO, which sounds like an old-school ER-type TV show on CBS.  "Works as a metropolitan census taker?" is COUNTS TUCSON.  "Work as a metropolitan traffic engineer" is HASTEN ATHENS, which is the lamest of the quartet.  And "works as a metropolitan reclaimant?" is SALVAGES LAS VEGAS.

Once I understood the theme, the themed answers practically filled themselves in, so that was a big help.

As for the fill...

I'm so tired of Big Ten and Big Twelve schools.  I honestly do not care a rat's ass.  Anyone, one of the the mythic Ten is NEBR, for what that's worth.  Go 'Huskers.

"Works of Dalí, e.g." is ARTE.  Yes, yes, very high-falutin'.  Well done.

OBOE comes up a lot in the puzzle.  On December 5, 2017 it was clued as having "cane blades."  Today it's clued as having "a bore and a bell."  The bell is the flared edge of the bore.

For "least likely to harm" is put *SAFEST, but it's TAMEST, which cost me time also.

The BLACK SEA has also been an answer several times before, but never clued as the outlet of the Danube.

That Helen Keller co-founded the ACLU was learned way back on September 26, 2017.  And I remembered!

Obama education secretary ARNE Duncan appeared as lately as August 16.  And I didn't remember!

Clever clues: "Rough spots for teens?" is ACNE.  "It gets depressed on the road" is BRAKE (a variation of which appeared on September 9, 2017).  "Things get crazy when all of them are off" is  BETS.  "Yellow belly?" is ELS.  "Wet blankets?" is SLEETS.

And that's it for me this Wednesday.  Let's be REALISTS: they can't all be big wins.  I'm better suited for cruciverbing than I am KENKEN, anyway.  On to tomorrow, maybe.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 28, 2018

My time: 6:32, not too shabby!


Brian "The Brain" Thomas constructed this one, which I really enjoyed.  The theme is one of those that's clever, but doesn't really help you get the themed answers even once you know it.  Playing off the phrase BACK CHANNEL ("covert means of communication"), Thomas includes five themed answers that contain the names of TV channels, but backwards.  For example, GLENN CLOSE contains CNN backward.

But what made this puzzle stand out for me was the great fill.  The themed answers in particular were rarely-seen phrases: WAX ON, WAX OFF from The Karate Kid; ZIPLOC BAG; USB CHARGER; and JOB HUNTER.  Then there's POTSIE from "Happy Days," GRU from Despicable Me, I DUNNO ("couldn't tell ya!"), and RED AS A BEET, among others.  So modern and fresh!

"Tribe at Council Bluff" is OTOE, which has come up before, but not in this context.  Council Bluff is an area on the west bank of the Missouri River, across from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The novel Wide Sargasso Sea was written in 1966 by Dominican-born author Jean RHYS.  It is a feminist and anti-colonial response to Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre and the background to Mr Rochester's marriage from the point-of-view of his mad wife Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress.  It is on the Modern Library's list of 100 Greatest Novels.

"Spot for a yacht" is both a SLIP and a MARINA.

"B+, e.g." has nothing to do with grades.  It's ION, as in an atom or molecule that has a non-zero net electrical charge.  I guess B+ is a boron ion?

I'll stick with Chemistry I Don't Understand At All for $1000, Alex.  An AZO dye is a chemical compound containing nitrogen that is used to color materials, usually in reds and yellows.  One of the first produces AZO dyes was called Congo red.

I thought "ball in the sky" was *SUN, and that slowed me up.  It's ORB.  Ugh.

I would have sworn that NOKIA is a Japanese company, but apparently it's Finnish!  It was founded in Nokia, Finland.  But it currently does not have operations there; it's headquartered in Espoo now.

Australia's national gemstone OPAL was discovered on July 16.

DEKES as in hockey feints last came up on June 13.

Clever clues: "She reads the signs" is SEERESS.  "Makes the cut?" is SAWS.

All around, a very admirable puzzle, although I think some of its devious clues were somewhat challenging for a Tuesday. Well, I won't FRET over it.  I'm out.  MWAH!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 27, 2018

My time: 4:16.


Okay, confession time.  I haven't been on vacation.  I haven't had a particularly heavy schedule.  I actually couldn't finish a puzzle since last Wednesday.  I just found them... very, very hard.  Too difficult for me to finish.  I didn't even try Sunday's.

Today, Susan Gelfand gives us celebrity addition.  It's a theme that is immediately understandable.  I filled three out of the four without any hesitation, except, of course, the sports one.

"Actor Cameron + actor Fairbanks = actor" KIRK DOUGLAS, obviously.  STEVE MARTIN is made form comedians Carell and Short, while JAMES TAYLOR is a composite of his fellow singers Brown and Swift.

Unfortunately, I haven't heard of basketball player BILL Walton, who came to fame in the UCLA Bruins, then played for the Trail Blazers and the Clippers.  Nor have I heard of RUSSELL Westbrook, a seven-time All-Star who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.  So I had to rely on crossfill to get BILL RUSSELL, a ten-year veteran of the Celtics.

As for the fill, it took me way too long to get SHIM ("leveling wedge").

I know what a BOX KITE is, but "flying toy that's open-ended" is a good clue.

This puzzle has both LUNK and HUNK ("object of an ogler").

Have you heard of relative of a snowboard MONOSKI?  Me neither.  At least I'm not familiar with that nomenclature.

Cuban dance RUMBA was last seen way, waaaayyy back on August 14.

Clever clues: "Where a mole shouldn't be" is CIA.  "Frenzied way to go" is AMOK.

Good puzzle, fun and easy theme.  I'd RATE it a 7 out of ten.  Not the ACME of puzzle making, but nothing to JEER at either.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 22, 2018

My time: 8:00 even.


John Lampkin (possibly changed from the original Lambkin) through up this puzzle, in which words with the sound cluster umb have it changed to ump.  Why?  I'm not sure.  I guess he just thought it was better that way.  It's a neat bit of wordplay, but not exceedingly interesting, in my opinion.

So, "you think the blanket needs messing up?" is READY TO RUMPLE, "guideline for testing watermelon ripeness?" is RULE OF THUMP, the laconic "whence slouches?" is SLUMPERLAND, and "title of a trash collector's memoir?" is DUMP AND DUMPER.

Ha ha?  Well.... stay humple, Lumpkin.

As for the fill, TANIA Mallet is a British model (of Russian heritage) who played Tilly Masterson in Goldfinger and not much else except herself in a handful of TV appearances.

"Neuter" is a tough, even misleading, clue for ALTER.

STK is an abbreviation for stock, which is the material of a brokerage sale.  It's a little hard to Google because STK is also an abbreviation for a special technologies growth fund traded on the NYSE.

The ad campaign "Say PEPSI, Please" was used in the late '50s onward.  Any Warhol did a lithograph of a matchbox cover with the slogan.

The fruit açai comes up a lot as an answer, but this time, it's a clue, as an example of a PALM.

"Pharaoh honored near Aswan" refers to the massive Abu Simbel temples, southwest of Aswan on the border of Sudan.  The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II (or, as the newspaper puzzle styles his name, RAMSES). They serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari, and commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh, the largest chariot battle ever fought.

Speaking of the Aswan Dam, it's in UPPER Egypt, which is, counterintuitively, the southern half of the country.

Lots of old friends this time around:

That UCLA is the home of the Bruins came up on May 14.

Baseball legend "Country" ENOS Slaughter came up to bat on May 5.

We last spied Iraq port city BASRA on June 4.

Basketball strategy the ZONE defense was outlined on September 9, 2017.

Big name in windows PELLA was last seen on January 20.

DYES, needed in batik, came up on October 25, 2017.  I keep forgetting what batik is.

Clever clues: calling ALAR an "apple application" is pretty devious. "One in a black suit" is SPADE.

Well, it isn't a record, but I did this one fairly quickly.  It was A SNAP.  I have NADA thing to complain about, except maybe that somewhat pointless (if amusingly silly) theme.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 21, 2018

My time: 6:09.


John Leib and Andrea Yanes made this puzzle which celebrates DARWIN.  Five Across answers have circled letters which show the name "evolving" down the puzzle.  The circled letters are D, DA, DAN, DARN, DARIN, and then finally DARWIN.  A visual pun!

But what's even more impressive is this ultra-modern, cutting-edge fill!  We've got so many answers that enrage the highbrow crowd: TENACIOUS D, DA ALI G SHOW, STEELY DAN, IRON MAN, and even DARN TOOTIN' ("abso-lutely!").  While I wouldn't want the puzzle to become a pop culture cesspit, I do enjoy a few nods to phrases and concepts introduced after 1968. I also like the retro stuff like BIG APE ("galoot").

Are you a golfer?  Are you aware that Augusta National is a golf course?  Would go so far as to say that its 12th hole is "infamous?"  That hole is called the Golden Bell, and is hard to play because of swirling winds.  Did you know it was a PAR THREE?  ...You did?  Huh.  Did you know that the club barred African Americans until 1990 and women until 2012?  And that it required all caddies to be black?  What a terrible, backward, odious place.

For "Schubert's 'The ____ King,'" I wanted to but *ELF, but realized pretty quickly that this left me with *SNF for "TV Funhouse" show SNL.  It's actually the ERL King, from the original German, meaning Alder King.  Schubert took it from a poem by Goethe, who took it from an earlier source.  So, that's a new concept.

Also, in hockey (of course), here's one of many rules I've never heard of: an overtime LOSS counts as a team point.  A team that ties also gets one point. 

Kid ORY was a trombonist and band leader from Louisiana.  Louis Armstrong joined his band in 1919.

I recently encountered the Indian dish BIRYANI, rice mixed with meat, spices, and sometimes egg.  It's hard to spell, though.

"Self-important minor official" is TIN GOD.  That's not a widely-used expression.

Ski lift type T-BARS came up on November 27, 2017.

Disney CEO Bob IGER was showcased on October 27, 2017.  I had forgotten his existence.

Clever clue: "Deal breaker?" is NARC.

This was a fun Tuesday.  The theme was clever and to the point, and I was just bowled over by that newfangled fill.  I've got a YEN for more like this!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 20, 2018

My time: 4:57.


Peter Gordon serves up a cosmopolitan feast in this puzzle.  Four geographically named foods are featured: CHICKEN KIEV ("meat entree in Ukraine"), VIENNA SAUSAGES ("meat entree in Austria"), BEEF WELLINGTON ("meat entree in New Zealand"), and LONDON BROIL ("meat entree in the United Kingdom").

And... that's it.  There's no joke or capper.  Those foods are in fact from or named after those places.  Yup. 

Pretty straightforward.  Boring, almost.

So, the fill.

Christine LAHTI is an actress who has played ongoing roles on "Special Victims Unit," "The Blacklist," and "Hawaii 5-0."  She won an Emmy for her role as Kathryn Austin.  She also won an Oscar for Best Short Film!

We all know and adore Alan ALDA, but did we know he wrote a book with the ludicrous title If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?  No, we didn't.  It is a memoir of trying to become more skilled in the art of communication.

ERIC Garcetti is the current mayor of Los Angeles.  He's the first Jewish, and youngest, mayor of the city.

I'm not sure that I knew that Paul ANKA wrote "My Way."  He is a very common crossword answer.

I read the Aubrey and Maturin novels, but for the characterization and adventure, not so much for the nautical terminology and verisimilitude.  In sailing, a boom is a spar at the foot of a mast, serving as the base for the triangle of a MAINSAIL.

I had no idea that in baseball, an INFIELD FLY is a "pop-up that results in the batter being called out even if the ball isn't caught."  That doesn't sound fair!  Why does it exist?  To prevent double or triple plays on popups.  Oh.  All right, then.

"Greek H" ETA appeared January 16.

The freshwater polyp HYDRA appeared on August 12.

Clever clues: "Catch cold?" is NAB.  "Jam ingredient?" is AUTO.

This was a middling Monday.  Easy, with a few more abstruse items for spice, but with a really blah theme.  I would OPT for a more playful theme next time.  TSK!

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 18, 2018

My time: 15:12.


Mark Diehl constructed this puzzle, which contains every letter of the alphabet at least once.  It's a very satisfying grid with lots of interesting fill (AQUI, LAY SIEGE TO, MUD FACIAL, ACT OF LOVE, STAMP PADS ["ink holders"], CITY PLAZA, et alii).

Right off the bat at one across I was held up by "certain fish... or sailboats," which is SKIPJACKS.  There's skipjack tuna, which is in the family Scombridae, and skipjack shad, which is in the herring family, Clupeidae.  A skipjack boat, on the other hand, is a sailboat used on the Chesapeake Bay for oyster dredging.

I didn't know Jon HAMM was in 2010's The Town.  He played an FBI agent.

"Makeshift fly swatter" is a good clue for SHOE.

I'm a Muppet fan from way back, but there are some tertiary characters I don't have on the tip of my tongue.  PEPE the King Prawn is one of them.  He was created for the later show, "Muppets Tonight."

The OCARINA is a primitive wind instrument known as a type of vessel flute --- that is, a flute with a vessel body and an extended mouthpiece.

For "hint of things to come," I confidently put *HARBINGER, but it's FORETASTE.

In the Bible, the Book of Samuel, ELI is a priest who assures Samuel's mother that she will bear a son, and goes on to help train Samuel.  He also has two wicked sons, whom he rebukes only lightly, for which his lineage is cursed.

We all know Jay LENO and his magical chin, but did we know he won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2014?  I didn't even know there was one.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus won this year!

Physicists use the Greek letters PSIS (Ψs) to denote wave function.  That is, a mathematical description of the quantum state of an isolated quantum system.  You're confused, I see.  Let me make it perfectly clear: The wave function is a complex-valued probability amplitude, and the probabilities for the possible results of measurements made on the system can be derived from it.

Not being a musical aficionado, I didn't know that the main female role in "Singin' in the Rain" is KATHY Selden, played by Debbie Reynolds.  Kathy is a showgirl who makes fun of the film star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), and he falls for her.  She dubs the singing voice for his co-star, Lina.

"In-pool fitness program" is AQUA ZUMBA!  Now that's just crazy.

I'm not 100% familiar with Mariah Carey's oeuvre, but apparently she had a #1 with "OH, SANTA" in 2010, from her second Christmas album, the amusingly titled Merry Christmas II You.

"Irked constantly" held be back quite a bit.  I read it as an adjective, as in someone who is irked constantly, but it's meant to be read as a verb, as in "irked [someone] constantly."  It's ATE AT.

I didn't know that the famous trees lining the National Mall in D.C. are ELMS.

I also had never heard of Operation Ali Baba, the airlifting of thousands of Jews to Israel in the 1950s, but it was pretty obvious that the airline involved had to be EL AL.  It is also called Operation Exra & Nehemia.

Derek Jeter's retired number is TWO.  Now that I know that, what do I do?

"My Kind of Town" lyricist Sammy CAHN appeared on June 24, 2018.

About a gigaton of clever clues this time around: "Hit with a charge" is TASE. "Story of past glories, maybe?" is ATTIC --- because it's the story of a house where maybe interesting items from the past are kept.  "Private leaders" is CORPORALS.  "Open investigation?" is DENTAL EXAM.  "Give an unexpected hand" is SLAP.  "Summer" is ADDER, ha ha.  "Exchanged some crosses" is BOXED.  "Top of Scotland" is TAM.

Woo!  This took quite a while.  I guess I MIST my chance to do well on this one!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 17, 2018

My time: 18:26.


Jeff Chen whipped up this Friday's puzzle, a themeless with some mighty modern fill.  I liked ROCKED IT ("wore an outfit with panache, informally"), SHROOMS, SECRET SAUCE, AU NATUREL for "bare," and I DUNNO ("verbal shrug").

I honestly don't know why this took so long.  There was very little new information in the answers, unlike yesterday's puzzle, but perhaps it was the vague clues and unusual fill.  For example, USES ON from "applies to."

The constellation between Cygnus and Aquila is SAGITTA, which kind of sounds like a disease old people get.  It actually means "arrow."  Although it is an ancient constellation, it has no star brighter than 3rd magnitude and has the third-smallest area of all constellations (only Equuleus and Crux are smaller).

"Process by neutrinos are produced" is BETA DECAY.  And I don't think I can say any more about that without getting in way over my head.

DINA Merrill was a philanthropist and actress in many films, including The Courtship of Eddie's Father and The Player.

Old friend Terri GARR appears in this puzzle, but they also ask about another namesake of hers, country singer TERRI Clark.  She's from Canada!  And she's been putting out albums since 1995!

I think it's fairly well known fact about JFK that he attended Connecticut boarding prep school CHOATE, but I'd forgotten what it was called.

I'm also not up on my Supreme Court justices.  HARLAN Stone was on the court from 1925 to 1946, and was Chief Justice the last five years.  He was appointed by Calvin Coolidge.  He is known for the quote "Courts are not the only agency of government that must be assumed to have capacity to govern," but I'm not exactly sure what that means.

Clever clues: "Primer finish" is Z IS FOR ZEBRA --- good pun and skillful fill.  "One who crosses the line" is SCAB.  "They're often blitzed" is SOTS.  "Grueling grillings" is ORAL EXAMS.  "Big cheese wheels?" is an almost unfair clue.  STATE CAR is the wheels for a government official, or big cheese.  "Spinner?" is PR MAN.

Well, this one had some of the SLIEST clues I've seen in a while!  It had me saying, "CAN'T I figure any of these out?"  I GUESS NOT.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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

My time: 16:09.


Alan Arbesfeld probably wishes this puzzle would have run tomorrow, because it celebrates the work of ROBERT / DENIRO, "born 8/17/1943."  If only Will Shortz had held it for the next day, when it would have made sense!

Several of the theme clues are DENIRO's movies, including CASINO, RAGING BULL, The DEER HUNTER, and TAXI DRIVER.  That's some impressive fill.  There's also "employer of [DeNiro]," not a person but the generic FILM STUDIO.  The weakest theme-related clue is COMEDY CLUB, "venue for a [DeNiro] movie of 2016."  This being one of his lesser-known (and more widely panned) works, it's an odd choice.

In all, a very nice tribute to a great (if somewhat sloppy, nowadays) actor.  In the fill, there was approximately a metric truckton of stuff I'd never encountered before or had forgotten.

"Rolled fare" is BURRITO.  That's a nice vague clue.

"As You Like It" hero is ORLANDO, the youngest son of his late father, left in poverty by his nasty big brother.  He falls in love with Rosalind, who disguises herself as Ganymede, a boy.

Did you know OBERLIN was the first coed college in America?  Me neither. It was coed from it's 1833 founding and began accepting black students in 1835!  Very progressive.

For "current measurer," I put *AMPETER for an embarrassingly long time.  It's AMMETER.

RIGA is the largest city in the Baltic States, with a population of 641,000.  The second-best contender, Vilnius, has 547,000.

Actor Edd Byrnes has appeared in the puzzle, but not EDD Roush, a center fielder who played with the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, among others.  He was on the winning team, the Reds, in the 1919 World Series, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

The SCOTUS justice with the longest tenure is William O. Douglas, who served 13,358 days, or 36 and a half years.  Douglas is known for introducing the idea that trees might have standing in court.

We all know agricultural giant DOLE, but I've never heard of mascot "Bobby Banana."

"It ended in 1806" is a deliberately vague clue for HRE, or Holy Roman Empire.

Sticking with the Roman theme, ITER is the Latin word for "road" or "course."  I suppose we get our word itinerary from the same route.

Not being a cosmetics expert, I haven't heard of the Revlon brand ALMAY.  Their logo has uncrossed A's!  How minimalist.

I didn't remember the name of Obama education secretary ARNE Duncan, the man who pushed Common Core on unsuspecting private schools.

Never heard of science fiction series "Time TRAX," a kind of "Quantum Leap"-like show.  A policeman is sent, with an AI that of course takes the form of a prim but feisty woman, two centuries into the past to capture escaped prisoners from 2193.

Last and most embarrassing, I was utterly stymied by "canon offering, briefly."  I was for whatever reason convinced that "canon" referred to the priest and put *SER (for sermon).  It's Canon, the company, of course, and the answer is, once again, SLR.

I remembered that the "title lover in a 1922 Broadway hit" was ABIE from its appearance on May 30.

OISE appeared on February 4; today it's clued as "Seine tributary."

Baghdad suburb SADR City appeared on December 24, 2017.

Clever clues: "Revivalists, for short?" is EMTS. "Snake target" is CLOG.

Well, this was a slog for a Thursday. Veni, VIDI, but no vici.  I'd like a REDO.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 15, 2018

My time: 9:15.


Kathy Wienberg is setting her sights on testing our knowledge of anagrams in this  puzzle.  Six themed answers are sayings that contain a word more or less synonymous with anagrammed, or least mixed up.  The clues are anagrams of the other word in the phrase, written all in capitals, Scrabble-style.

"DAM," for example, is MAD SCRAMBLE --- that is, dam is a scramble (anagram) of mad.  "FIRED" is STIR FRIED.  "PARBOIL" is BIPOLAR DISORDER --- the letters are in disorder and disarray.  "STREAM" is MIXMASTER.  AND "LYDIA" IS DAILY JUMBLE.

Cute and fun!

Considering how many times Tulsa school ORU has been in the puzzle, you'd think that I'd get to it quicker.  Instead I stayed on *OSU for too long.  Note that OSU is actually in Stillwater, not Tulsa.

I haven't seen The Lego Movie, so I didn't know the main character's name, EMMET Brickowski.  On a related note, the Lego wiki is really badly written.

I had forgotten, if indeed I ever knew, that Laura Bush was NEE Welch.  I wonder if the street in Dallas is named after her.

Apparently ABS are the muscles used in a Russian twist.  It's a held sit-up, with the arms extended in front, and then twisting to the right and left.

For once, I DO is not clued as wedding words.  Here's an Abba hit, "when sung five times."  That's too many times.

"Institute signed into existence by Thos. Jefferson" is USMA, which stands for United States Military Academy,  a.k.a. West Point!  Jefferson signed legislation establishing the United States Military Academy in 1802. He took this action after ensuring that those attending the Academy would be representative of a democratic society.

"Pic" is FOTO.  Ugh.

Surprisingly, given the length of time this took, that is the sum total of new information for me this time around.   I was slowed by some vague or fuzzy clues, like "removed from memory" for ERASED, "opposite of keyed up" for AT EASE, and "didn't just criticize" for REAMED.  Oh well, they can't all be winners.  No SHAME.  I know I can OUTDO this performance. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 14, 2018

My time: 4:32, close to the record!


Andy Kravis and Erik Agard put on their best crossword-creating togs, and, dressed to the NINES ("Front and back halves of a golf course"), give us clothing-related puns.

In this puzzle, a BLASTING CAP is an "article of headwear for an explosives engineer."  THREE-WAY TIE is "article of neckwear for the Stooges" (the lack of the additional three in the name of the comedy trio mars this clue a bit).  A "celebrity magazine editor" wears a PEOPLE WATCH, and a Russian cook wears a BORSCHT BELT (this was the first themed clue I got).

Surprise! The first across clue "three-letter sandwich" is PBJ, not BLT like I put so confidently (cost me the record time!).  However, BLT is the answer to the last across clue, "three-letter sandwich."

The RUMBA is clued as "ballroom dance from Cuba," but Wikipedia notes that "originally, rumba was used as a synonym for party in northern Cuba, and by the late 19th century it was used to denote the complex of secular music styles known as Cuban rumba.  Since the early 20th century the term has been used in different countries to refer to distinct styles of music and dance, most of which are only tangentially related to the original Cuban rumba, if at all."

"Today" rival is GMA, which stands for "Good Morning America."  I don't know if anyone actually uses that abbreviation.

I've certainly heard of MARC Chagall but not MARC Gasol, a center for the NBA team Memphis Grizzlies.  He's Spanish and is 7'1" tall.

RUBY DEE was an actress who was in A Raisin in the Sun, Do the Right Thing, and "Roots."  She was married to civil rights figure Ossie Davis.

Never heard of ANN Peebles, a blues singer in the Memphis Hall of Fame.  Two of her famous songs are "I Can't Stand the Rain" and "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down."

Clever clue: "Put vinaigrette on, perhaps" is DRESS.

I was ABLE to do this puzzle very quickly.  Most of the clues were straightforward and easy definitions like "V-shaped cut," NOTCH).  A quick time will give you a LYFT and PEP you up.  Well, off to BED.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 13, 2018

My time: 4:58.


Lynn Lempel created this pretty simple Monday, in which the wordplay is all in the clues.  She takes four well-known phrases and gives tow clues for each, showing how they can be used negatively or positively.  In other words, GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS.

GO DOWN IN HISTORY can mean "leave a lasting legacy, or do worse at school."  MAKE PASSES can be "succeed on the gridiron, or invite a slap in the face."  GET A RUN can be scoring in baseball or a bad thing happening to your stocking.  And DRAW A BLANK can mean "be lucky in Scrabble, or some up short memorywise."

Since the wordplay is in the clues, this isn't the most visually amusing or exciting puzzle.  I mean, it's clever to think of these double meanings, but it doesn't effect the grid, so it's really making commentary about a standard puzzle.

I remembered that ETON is on the Thames from looking up the map showing it being near Windsor.

"Vichyssoise vegetable" is LEEK.

Yet another news journalist I've never heard of: it's ANN Curry.  She's covered war zones and disasters.

I've heard of Lou RAWLS, but I didn't know he has more than 70 albums.

ATLANTA being the world's busiest airport first came up on January 6, 2017.

We learned about Arthur ASHE Stadium on October 11, 2017.

Clever clue: "One giving you the aye?" is PRO (as in vote). 

There were very few new items for me to learn today, so I'm not sure why it took longer than four minutes.  It wasn't all that engaging; maybe that slowed me down.  Anyway, WIPE the slate clean and start again Tuesday.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 12, 2018

My time: 23:04.


Ross Trudeau created this funny Sunday, titled "If I were You..."  This title reveals the key to the solving: several phrases have an I replaced with a U, changing the meaning.  These are clued as they read.

So we have, for example, "Land O'Lakes and Breakstones?" which is BUTTER RIVALS, which is hard to get if you've never heard of both of these brands.  I don't think the latter exists in the many places I've lived.

"Ministering?" is WORKING THE SOUL, while "'What are you hauling in there?' and 'How many axles you running?"' are TRUCK QUESTIONS.  If you take "a trip overland from Venezuela to Bolivia" it's JUNGLE ALL THE WAY.

Anyhoo, you get the idea.  Let's START the fill.

ALITALIA is "part of the SkyTeam Alliance," a group of airlines who share flight codes to enable group ticket purchasing.

"Easy buckets" is LAY-UPS.  A lay-up is just what it sounds like: a shot where we lay the ball up on the backboard or over the rim and into the basket.

HYDRAS are not only mythological creatures, but tiny, multi-tentacled creatures that do not appear to age at all.

A tough clue is "orders" for HAS.  I guess it's as in the usage, "He had them jailed."

Although I'm familiar with the phrase, I had trouble with the spelling of the first word of AGLIO E OLIO.

I'm not familiar with Lord of the Rings actor Billy BOYD.  He played Pippin "Fool of a" Took.

Did you know QATAR is slated to host the 2022 World Cup?  Did you care?  This will be the first World Cup ever to be held in the Arab world and the first in a Muslim-majority country.

Vientiane is the capital of Laos, as I already reminded myself on January 30.

Indigo source ANIL appeared on June 28.

"Letter-shaped fastener" T-NUT last appeared on July 13.

"Mr. Robot" actor Rami MALEK appeared on April 28.

Big name in soda cans and foil ALCOA appeared on June 27.

Clever clues: "Steel head?" is J.P. MORGAN.  "Box of 12?" is JURY --- especially since "box of 12" (DOZEN) is also in the puzzle.  "Extended writer's blocks?" is LEGAL PADS.  "Comedic duo?" is HARD C'S.

I liked the theme, and this had a lot of fun fill.  A good Sunday puzzle, SEZ ME.  I didn't exactly WIN on time but SOD it!  I enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 11, 2018

My time: 23:42.  Woo!  That's slow, these days!


This one by Ryan McCarty is a themeless, with some deucedly troublesome fill.  I had the most trouble with the southwest corner, where the suspiciously unword-like ALTERANT ("causing change") lies atop the non-famous Falls of New York, GLEN Falls ("Hometown USA!"), and under GET, clued as "trick" (as in, "I got him with this scam.")

Kudos for fitting in ADIEU, ADIEU ("repetitive farewell from 'The Sound of Music'").  And right across from LIEU, too. 

ALGA is, it seems obviously now, from the Latin for seaweed.

I've never heard of Roger MUDD, a newsman for CBS News and NBC News, as well as the History Channel.

Another name unknown to me is Luis SUAREZ, an Uruguayan soccer star who plays as a striker for Barcelona.

I know AVIA from its previous appearances in the puzzle, but didn't know it from "Saucony competitor" because I didn't know Saucony is a shoe company.

Thanks to today's puzzle, I finally know what GEODESISTS do.  They measure and monitor the Earth to determine the exact coordinates of any point.

I knew "what Hawaii has that Alaska lacks" was some kind of wordplay, but I put *DOUBLE I"S, which is true, but it's DOTTED I'S.  This would have been better as "What Hawaii has that Iowa lacks."

The clue that maybe gave me the very most trouble is "stop by."  I put *VISIT but it soon became clear that this wasn't anywhere near right.  It's END AT, which confused me more than a little.  Long after the solve, it dawned on me that it fits in the sense of stopping at a time.  "You can play that game for a while, but you must stop by / END AT ten o'clock."  I must admit that I really only stumbled on this answer by trial and error.

I'm heard of "TIMON of Athens," of course, but sad to say I didn't know he was characterized as a misanthrope.

LEO appeared on June 24 as "proud, passionate type."  Snooze.

Clever clues: "Stumpers?" is POLS.  "Show around the area?" is LOCAL COLOR --- show is a noun here.  "Blarney stone?" is FAUX DIAMOND.  "Seller of shooting equipment" is CAMERA SHOP.  "Places to go out and have a gas?" is OXYGEN BARS.  "Expert on bugs" is TECHIE.

This was a HELLUVA tough puzzle for me. A lot of vague and tricky clues!  McCarty is quite the GAG MAN.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 10, 2018

My time: 14:41.


Damon Gulczynski constructed today's themeless.  I enjoyed seeing some unusual and fresh fill, such as SPLITSVILLE ("where a rocky relationship might end"), ARE YOU BLIND ("angry shout to an umpire"), PUT PEN TO PAPER, LUMMOX ("stumblebum"), and FILE MENU.  Also "least believable" is a good clue for LAMEST.

I was slowed by a few tricky ones.  I put *SASS at first for "insolent talk" but it's GUFF.  Likewise, I thought "inept sort" was *LOSER but it's the more abstruse GOMER (does the military connotation come from the TV show, or the other way around?).   And for "big name in movie rentals" I put *REDBOX confidently, but it's ITUNES.

The brachialis muscle is located on the upper ARM and flexes the elbow joint.

What's so special about GLEN Rock, NJ?  Why is it a crossword clue?

We've all heard of HANK AARON, but I didn't connect him with setting a record on 4/8/1974.

I've never heard, however, of "multi-time Pro Bowl tight end" Greg OLSEN.  He played for the Chicago Bears and the Carolina Panthers.

Crossword mainstays ELO seem to also have a song called "Do Ya."  Ugh.

Actor EMIL Jannings is the only German to have won a Best Actor Oscar; he won in 1929 for The Last Command.

Did you know the network TBS had the slogan "Very funny?"  Me neither.

"Southwestern tree with needles" is NUT PINE.  The information I've found says they come from Korea though?

"La Loge" is an 1874 painting by RENOIR, depicting a Parisian woman in her theater box.

Chervil is a European HERB related to parsley, used often in French cooking.

AYLA is the heroine of Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel, played by Darryl Hannah in the film.

"Pacific capital" APIA appeared on June 15.

Clever clues: "It's no six-pack, ironically" is BEER BELLY.  "Black-and-white" is POLICE CAR.  "Wind sources" is GASBAGS.  "One who arrives around Halloween" is SCORPIO.  "It was launched with Sputnik" is SPACE RACE.

And that's it.  A lot of one-liner notes today because none of the referents seemed to require extensive explanation or lead to an interesting tangent.  Also, I'm tired.  Well, ALBA going now.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 9, 2018

My time: 8:00, a new Thursday best by 35 seconds and the second record in two days!


Patrick Merrell regales us with the puns today, constructing lengthy questions for clues to the theme phrases which change their meaning from declaration to answers.  For example: "Can I write both a poem and an essay?"  NO, RHYME OR REASON.  (It works best with the comma, and a slight stress on the OR.)  Also, "Is that snack bar known for good burgers?"  NO, GREAT SHAKES.  And finally, "Should you call that stopover between Liverpool and Belfast a peninsula?"  NO, MAN IS AN ISLAND.

In the fill area...

"Sounds of surrender" is SIGHS?  Do people sigh when they surrender?

I filled in HODA as Matt's replacement on "Today" immediately!  She finally sunk in.

We've all heard of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Reese's Pieces, but did you know the man, the legend, Harry Burnett H.B. REESE?

Speaking of names, did you know ICE-T was born Tracy Lauren Marrow?  When you have two first girl's names, you gotta be tough.  And he's cold to the bone.  Ha!  Bone.

In the olden days, vintage car makes were indicated on a car's HUBCAP.

I'm not sure than anyone needs to know (or cares to remember) that "77 Sunset Strip" aired mostly on FRI.  That's a ridiculous clue.

An ISObar is a line on a map connecting points having the same atmospheric pressure at a given time or on average over a given period.

I've never heard the term SLO-pitch (it seems to be spelled with a W in the US and without in other countries).  It refers to a version of softball often played with ten players and in which each pitch must have an arc 3 to 10 feet high and base stealing is not allowed.

Fascinating fact: the KIWI, although tiny, is a close relative of the enormous and extinct elephant bird.

"On-demand flier" AIR TAXI appeared way, way back on September 2, 2017.

Clever clues: "Part of a pickup line?" is CAB.  "Fiddler on the reef?" is CRAB.

Whew!  I rushed through that ASAP and broke my speed record, NUN the worse for wear.  GOGH me!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 8, 2018

My time: 5:17, a new Wednesday best!


Andrew Kingsley had a brilliant idea with this puzzle (though I'm sure that some other crossword creator also thought of it at the same time).  Proving the adage GREAT / MINDS / THINK / ALIKE, he showcases five inventions that were the product of two independent thinkers at about the same time.

For example, CALCULUS was invented by both "Gottfried Wilhelm Liebniz and Isaac Newton."  Many Americans go through their entire school careers ignorant that the TELEPHONE was a brainchild of both "Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray," and likewise give no credit to Joseph Swan for the LIGHT BULB.   While I have heard of Mendeleev, I did not know that the PERIODIC TABLE was also conceived of by Julius Lothar Meyer.  Both of them worked under Robert Bunsen.

Unknown to me are "Leo Szillard and Joseph Rotblat," both of whom came up with the ATOM BOMB.  Szilard, a Hungarian, encouraged Einstein to warn President Roosevelt about the possibility of a German atomic bomb, and later worked with Fermi on the Manhattan Project.  Rotblat was a Pole who also worked on the Manhattan Project, and dedicated the rest of his life to a nuclear-free world.

Very nice theme! Good thing Kingsley was the first to publish.

I don't think SLIM means "not very likely."  Only if someone asks, "What are the chances of this happening?"  And then they could answer SLIM, which in this context means "[it's] not very likely," but really it just means low.  It only means not likely in the context of chances.

I know the ORIOLES, but didn't know they played in Camden Yards.

Also in sports, "longtime Boston Celtics executive" Danny AINGE is a total unknown to me.  His name looks like a misprint.

The Sierra is a pickup truck made by GMC.

Is CHER the Goddess of Pop?  I guess so.  Among other nicknames...

"Radamès's love" AIDA appeared on December 20, 2017.

Appliance brand mainstay AMANA last appeared on June 10.

Venetian marketplace RIALTO appeared on December 27, 2018.

Clever clues: "Heat setting" is MIAMI.  "It's found behind a temple" is EAR.  "Band aid?" is AMP.

This was a quick and easy puzzle!  A very intelligent and instructive theme, but with good basic fill.  Perfect for a Wednesday.  It caused me no STRESS.  I tore through it like a WHIP through TISSUE.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 7, 2018

My time: 6:05.


That lovable lush Alex Eaton-Salners hides four BEER INGREDIENTS in the themed answer of this puzzle: SHOP STEWARD hides hops; there's water in the IOWA TERRITORY ("Louisiana Purchase region from 1838 to 1846"); ANIMAL TRAINER contains malt; and yeast is growing inside HAPPY EASTER.

I put *GRIN for "smile from ear to ear" but what's needed is BEAM, while for "preceder of 'two, three, four'" I knew it couldn't possibly be *ONE but I put *HUP when it's HUT.

I've never been much of a Hobbithead (as Tolkien fans call themselves), so only vaguely know of MORIA, "Middle-earth area under the Misty Mountains."  It's the ancient kingdom of the dwarves.

"Mr. Robot" isn't a show I've watched, but now I know it's on the USA network.

I'm also way behind the cultural eight-ball on not watching "Game of Thrones" at all ever, though I do know of the Stark family.  ARYA Stark is a daughter of Eddard Stark, who disguises herself as a boy and trains as a... Faceless Man?  Or something.

ARS Technica is a technological news and review website.

Short-reigning Roman emperor OTHO appeared on August 10, 2017.

Beloved Mets manager GIL Hodges appeared on December 7, 2017.

Emmy-nominated actress Georgia ENGEL of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was showcased on December 29, 2017.

Clever clues: "A&E, in D.C?" is STS.  "Prelude to a kiss" is I DO.  "Fruit roll-ups?" is RINDS.

ANG that about wraps it up, mang.  Nice theme, nice fill, not too hard.  Just right.  A Cinderella Tuesday.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 6, 2018

My time: 5:22.


Andrea Carla Michaels and Mark Diehl take us back to the '60S, man, with this puzzle that has a hidden message.  Four phrases are featured in the puzzle from top to bottom --- MAKE IT SNAPPY, LOVE POTION, NOT SO LUCKY, and WAR ON POVERTY.  The capper clue instructs us to look at the first words of these, to reveal MAKE / LOVE / NOT / WAR, a slogan from the '60S.

That decade appears in the puzzle just like that, with numerals.  The crossed answers are 6-IRON and 0-CARB.

"Seafood often served on a toothpick" is PRAWN (not shrimp).

I had no idea that EUNICE Kennedy Shriver founded what became the Special Olympics.

"Game of Thrones" actress LENA Headey, who plays Cersei Lannister, appeared on November 30, 2017.

Clever clues: "It can get you into a lather" is SHAMPOO.  "Bump on a log, literally" is NODE.

I liked today's theme.  A fun puzzle for Monday.  There was almost nothing new to me, but sadly the time wasn't great thanks to a few SLIP-UPS (for example, I put *STUMBLE for "walk drunkenly" but it's STAGGER, and I wanted "swashbuckler's weapon" to be the more exotic *SABER instead of just plain SWORD).

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 5, 2018

My time: 24:18.


Alison Ohringer and Erik Agard teamed up to create this puzzle, titled "Ghosted."  Throughout the puzzle are circled letters, which spell out phantoms when the grid is filled.

69 Across notes that "this puzzle's circled letters vis-à-vis their Across answers" get LOST IN THE SHUFFLE, and I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean.

I've never heard of "certain vacuum tube" TRIODE.  It's a vacuum tube with three electrodes: a filament, a grid, and a plate.

ACER has appeared in the puzzle in the past, but today it's clued as "Taiwan-based electronics giant."

I thought Morticia Addams was Fester's *SISTER (and thus he was Uncle Fester to the kids, Pugsley and Wednesday), but she's his NIECE --- he's her uncle.

CARMEN MCRAE was a jazz singer who also played Lila in "Roots: The Next Generations."  She also played Richard Pryor's grandmother in Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.

The oldest iron oxide mineral on earth, hematite is colored black to red and is widely mined as IRON ORE.

GRANITA is a sorbet-like dessert (but usually with a coarser texture) originating in Sicily.

Apparently, the nearest country to Cape Verde is SENEGAL.

Here's a sports term that, surprise surprise, I don't know: BOX OUT.  This means to block a player form getting close to the basket.  And remember, if you're playing a low position (closer to the basket) try to find someone near to you in the paint.  Sage advice.

I've also never heard of comedian APARNA Nancheria.  Follow her on Twitter!

"Washington team, familiarly" is CAPS, as in the Washington Capitals, of the NHL.

Yet more sports: a feat in tennis is a SERENA SLAM, in which a player is reigning champion of all the major tournaments at the same time, but not all the tournaments have occurred in the same tennis season. This is opposed to the more traditional grand slam, in which the titles have to have been won in the same year.

"Viscount's superior" is EARL.  Remember the mnemonic!

"Fermented root" dish POI has appeared a few times in the puzzle.

I don't watch a lot of "Will & Grace," but Gracer ADLER's last name appeared way back on December 14, 2017, when I claimed to vaguely remember it.

Clever clues: "Expecting help?" is LAMAZE.  "Beat generation figure?" is HEART RATE (it generates beats).  Similarly, "wrist watch?" is PULSE.  "Oral examination?" is TASTE TEST.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 3, 2018

My time: 13:25.


David Steinberg created this themeless, and I have to give props to his mad cluing skills that made it challenging!

I like "four-finger gestures" for AIR QUOTES (great fill, too), and "complains vocally" is brilliant for MAKES NOISE, since it is a usage in that sense ("he's been making noise about our unfair policy"), but only one of many.

Nautical term time!  A SPRIT is a spar that intersects the mast at about a 45 degree angle to support a sail.

Steinberg acts all impressed that WEEZER has four (!) self-titled albums, but so did Led Zeppelin, and  Chicago had something like twenty-four!

A Keogh plan is a pension plan for self-employed people.  An alternative is an IRA.

I've heard of ED SHEERAN --- he's pretty famous --- but I couldn't have named his 2015 Grammy-winning Song of the Year, "Thinking Out Loud."  The video is pretty boring.

For "cab charge," I knew it was a wine pun, but I had *CORKING FEE, when the actual term is CORKAGE FEE.  I'm no oenophile.

I knew that callaloo is a kind of STEW --- actually, I remember the word from Walt Kelly's "Pogo" --- but burgoo is a new one to me.  Callaloo is a Caribbean dish named after the leaf vegetable, also called amaranth or bhaaji.  Burgoo is a dish originating in the southern US and is somethimes called Kentucky burgoo.

Speaking of food, MASA is corn flour in Latin American cuisine.  The corn flour is soaked in an alkaline solution to remove toxins before turning it into yummy tortillas.

"Cosmopolitan feature" is SEX QUIZ.  That's the highest Scrabble-scoring phrase so far!

Did you know Neil SEDAKA wrote "Love Will Keep Us Together," a #1 hit for Captain and Tenille in 1975?  Did you care?

Even though I've read The Once and Future King and am somewhat of a Round Table buff, poor Sir KAY slipped my mind completely.  The son of Sir Ector, he was very tall and apparently had magical powers.

Milanese opera house La Scala appeared on November 25, 2017, and today the puzzle asks for its full name: TEATRO alla Scala.

Clever clues: "Commercial lines?" is STRIP MALLS.  "Stir crazy?" is PRISON RIOT, and to me doesn't quite work.  A "crazy" is not a "riot," and vise versa if riot is used as a verb.  "Turns a corner?" is DOG-EARS; I put *DOGLEGS at first.  "Hamburger, maybe" is HERR.

A good solid themeless Friday.  A TOAST to Brainy Steinberg!  And now I got AGO.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 2, 2018

My time: 13:54, not a winner!


Today's puzzle, by Star Wars villain Xan Vongsathorn, is truly a masterpiece of language manipulation.  Each themed answer contains one or or more circled letters, which are either H or T.  The answers are clued in such a way that the H could be read as a T, or the T could be read as an H, without changing the definition!  In other words, if the T is tails and the H is heads, then any number of COIN / FLIPS would not change the clues!

For example: "____ value" is SHOCK.  Or, possibly, STOCK.  They both fit!  Crossed with this is "slight coloring," which could be HINT (if you chose SHOCK) or TINT (if you chose STOCK).

Get it?!
Here's some more examples.  "Cry aboard a frigate" could be HEAVE HO or HEAVE TO.  "An investor might want to get a fair one" is STAKE or SHAKE, while its cross, "evidence of a little spasm" is either TIC or HIC.  "Interjection heard when breaking up" is TA-TA or, if you're mean, HA HA.  And "breaking records, maybe" is TIP / TOP or (if you don't mind puns) HIP / HOP.  Here's a clever one: "it can take root in wet places" can be RUSH or RUST.

Sometimes the spacing matters!  "Many people might be eliminated by one" is HIT LIST, or TITLIST (not *TIT LIST).  "Carrier of something that might burn" is HEAT RAY or TEA TRAY (not *TEAT RAY).

Anyhoo, I bow to the unparalleled cleverness at work here.  And now on with the show.

I had a rough start from the beginning, because I have never heard of 11-time All-Star Carlton FISK, a catcher for the Red Sox and White Sox from the 1970s to '90s.  His oddly differing nicknames were "The Pudge" and "The Commander."

A STABILE is a stationary abstract sculpture, especially in reference to Alexander Calder's works.  The term was coined by Jean Arp.

"Long Island airport town" is ISLIP, home to Long Island MacArthur Airport, named after the general.

Did you know OMAHA is the headquarters for TD Ameritrade?  Who cares?

"A giant among Giants" is OTT, in reference to Mel Ott, who showed up on the Christmas 2017 puzzle.  He was a right fielder for the NY Giants from 1926 to 1947.

1961 space chimp ENOS was last seen on October 19, 2017.

Clever clues: "Bikini, etc." is ISLE.  "Gathering of spies?" is INTEL.  "They go up to the knees" is SHINS.  "Falling down in a pillow fight?" is EIDER.  "Something at the end of the hook?" is FISH or FIST, ha ha!  "Pot grower?" is ANTE.  "Wet bar locale?" is BATH.

My time took a hit on this puzzle, but I don't mind because it was a fun adventure trying to figure out the theme.  At first I couldn't make heads or tails of it!  And then the penny dropped.  And now I gotta SPLIT.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 1, 2018

My time: 6:09, very speedy!


In this very clever puzzle, Sande Milton and Jeff Chen make a few phrases EYELESS.  That is, they remove the I's from a few phrases or names, and clue the result literally.

"Campus area for amorous students" is RANDY QUAD (from Quaid), "flutterer around Orange County and LA?" is SO-CAL BUTTERFLY (from social), "put-down to someone from Manhattan or the Bronx" is NEW YORK SLANDER (from Islander, the NHL team), and "marathons, way back when" is GREEK RUNS (from ruins).  I half-hoped, half-wished that this last clue would be a diarrhea joke ("what you get after eating bad souvlaki?").

I didn't know that the ruler of Norway is Harald V, who is married to Queen Sonja, who lives in OSLO.  She is not this Queen Sonja.

A BLOOP is apparently a "short fly ball."  Isn't language fun? It's like racquetball! For your mouth!

"SEC school near Atlanta" is UGA, or the University of Georgia.  Their sports mascot is the Hairy Dawg, ha ha.  The SEC is the Southeastern Conference.

Did you know EMUS lay green eggs?  One emu egg weighs two pounds, the equivalent of a dozen chicken eggs.

The puzzle has taught me that the term APRON is the front of a stage in a play; today we learn that it's also the edge of a golfing green.  It is cut slightly higher than the grass of the green, but lower than on the fairway.

I have never heard the work SOAK as a noun and synonym for "boozehound."  You old soak!

AVA Gardner played Maria Vargas, the titular character in the 1954 film The Barefoot Contessa, with Humphrey Bogart as the washed-up director who makes her a star.

Ballet dancer ANNA Pavlova appeared on December 23, 2017 as the namesake for a berry meringue desert.

And that's all I know about what I didn't know.  I enjoyed this puzzle's fun wordplay, and that's no LYE.  And now, I gotta RON.