Thursday, August 30, 2018

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

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

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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.

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Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: August 9, 2020

                              My time: 19:28 , not too shabby for a Sunday! Theme: SHIPSHAPE, as shown when you connect the "dots"...