Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 30, 2018

My time: 24:03.


Constructor Natan Last suffered a sleepless night, the delicate soul, thinking up this puzzle, titled "Sleep on it," with its elegant, delightful Sunday theme.  Riffing off the fable of the PRINCESS who felt a PEA ("item that disturbs sleep") through a lot of bedding, he has made a rebus puzzle wherein four princesses "lie" (run across) atop various sizes of MATTRESS, and underneath, we see a [PEA] squished into one square.

For example, Disney heroine BELLE runs across QUEEN OF MEAN ("epithet for Leona Helmsley" --- luckily I was New Yorker during her fifteen minutes of fame), and under that, S[PEA]R("fishing tool").  Then we have sexy warrior princess XENA atop a TWIN SISTER, over S[PEA]K.  Beloved space princess LEIA is on a FULL BODIED ("like Merlot and zinfandel, typically") mattress, over AP[PEA]LS ("kind of court").  And finally, British princess ANNE, lying on a roomy KING SOLOMON ("builder of Israel's first temple"), on a [PEA]HEN.

Did you know the 2011 NBA champs were the MAVS?  Probably you did.  I didn't.

For "Nissan Leaf, e.g." I put *HYBRID but it's the much worse ECOCAR.  What a terrible word.  Who says this?  In a similar vein, "Persians, e.g." is not *CATS but RUGS.  Tricky!

I did not know ENT was Old English for "giant."

We all know ABBA's greatest hits, but I can't recognize them from their lyrics!  "S.O.S." is the song that begins "Where are those happy days?"

Despite the fact that I've been living in Texas for hundreds of years now, all new to me is the Texas-based oil and gas concern TESORO, now rebranded as Andeavor.

ZETA is the Greek letter that's sixth of 24.  It comes after alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and epsilon.

"So long" was recently *ADIOS, but today it's ADIEU.

I've never heard of RIC Burns, a documentarian like his massively more famous brother.

Chaac is the Mayan RAIN GOD.  With his lightning axe, Chaac strikes the clouds and produces thunder and rain.  That's so metal!  |m|

LES McCann is a jazz pianist and vocalist.  His big splash was the 1969 live album Swiss Movement, which contained the hit Vietnam critique "Compared to What."

I love that NEIL [PEA]RT and his 360-degree drum kit made it into the puzzle!

I don't know much about probability.  A FAT TAIL is when there is a higher chance than normal for extreme events.  That's a new term to me!

"Future plan for many an econ major" is B SCHOOL.  I guess that's how hip people say business school.  I bet people who go to B school know what a fat tail is.

The Temple of Artemis was in EPHESUS, in present-day Turkey.

ANISE is the flavoring in the drink arak, a distilled spirit popular in Ira and Turkey.

Apparently, Karl Benz debuted the world's first automobile in MANNHEIM, where he founded Benz & Co. in 1883.  His first combustion-engine car had three wheels!

I don't like clues that are too vague and can take more than one accurate answer.  "Wild _____" is a lame clue.  I put *ONES but it's OATS.  They're both good answers.  A better clue for this answer would be "something you might sow" or such ilk.

New Left organizations SDS, or Students for a Democratic Society, was investigated way back on October 15, 2017.

J'adore, a perfume by DIOR, was identified on March 29.

"Concerning a pelvic bone" is ILIAC, last seen on April 30.

EGEST last appeared on April 21, but we've never had EGESTA, the noun form, discharged matter.

Clever clues: "Jesus, for one" is ALOU.  "Ear piece?" is COB.  "Back cover?" is CAPE.  "Debunk?" is ROUST --- I put *ROUSE, which seems correct enough (as mentioned, I hate it when clues are so vague they allow more than one perfectly accurate answer).  "He might provide assistance after a crash" is I.T. GUY --- it could have been AA or even some kind of financial advisor.  "Collapsed red giant?" is USSR.  "Grp. with a saving plan?" is EMTS.

Wow.  Although I got stuck in a RUT or two, and I HAD A FEW errors that I stuck with too long, I still enjoyed the heck out of this puzzle.  Such a clever and charming theme!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 29, 2018

My time: 19:19.


Whew, David Steinberg gave me a mental workout with this one.  I still solved it in under my average Saturday time, but only because many of my early times were so long.  A themeless split by black squares roughly into five sections --- four blocks, one in each corner, plus a sort-of rectangle across the center --- it contains some difficult and unusual fill.

I was particularly impressed with the long Downs DEAR SIR OR MADAM ("formal opening") and THE EMERALD ISLE ("green land"), but it's the vague cluing that gave this one its edge.  For example, "level" can be so many things, but it's ECHELON.  Tough word, tough clue.  Another one like that is "not forward" for SHY (I put *AFT).

Right off the bat "balaclava, for one," had me mistakenly thinking of the Greek dessert (spelled differently), but it's KNIT CAP.  Unfortunately, I put *KNIT HAT.  That slowed me down a bit at the northwest block.

"Invasive plant" is a clever clue, but I put *BUG, and it's supposed to be *SPY.  I like my answer better.

NO SHADE is the "modern lingo" clue.

SEA MOSS is an "algae touted as a superfood"?  This superfood craze has gone too far!

I've heard of a bánh mi, but not a bánh TET, a Vietnamese savory cake made from glutinous rice and filled with bean and pork.  Yum!

The term BIOMASS just refers to any energy that comes from animal or plant resources that can be transmuted into fuel.  Like sea moss!

I didn't know that ODWALLA is owned by the Coca-Cola Corporation.  It was purchased in 2001.  It is now a separate business unit of Minute Maid, Coke's juice division.

"Major Tuscan import" is CHIANTI.  This wine last appeared in the puzzle on October 30, 2017.

Did you know a group of ELK is called a gang?  Thus the tricky clue "gang members."

Never heard of PENN'S Landing, a tourist-friendly area of Philadelphia along the Delaware River.

A SPINNAKER is a three-cornered sail, also called a kite or chute, that is used when the wind is blowing across the course the boat is being steered.

I got too clever for my own good and put *RAT for "turn," thinking as in being a turn coat, but it's ROT, like turn bad.

Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz are in my mental encyclopedia, but the sum total of their mental entries reads "rappers," so I had no idea what their 2013 hit is.  It's WE OWN IT.  It's from the film Fast & Furious 6.  It seems to be a lot of yelling.

The Boston Marathon is held in APRIL.  Now that I know that, what do I do?

America's deepest gorge is Hells Canyon, a ten-mile wide canyon that is 7,990 feet deep, carved out by the Snake River in IDAHO and Oregon.  This appeared as recently as July 5, but I forgot.

Clever clues: "Like idol worshipers" is STARSTRUCK --- I was leaning toward heathens or something.  'Daring way to go" is ROGUE.  "Where models are assembled?" is CAR LOTS.  "Back slap?" is SPANK.  "Go through a voice change?" is YODEL.

This crossword was no HOT MESS.  It was touch and well constructed!  I was definitely not saying IS THAT ALL? after I finished.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 28, 2018

My time: 12:08, not bad!


Kameron Austin Collins constructed this themeless, which boasts some novel and impressive fill: TRUST FUND BABY, NORSE DEITIES ("figures in the Edda"), YEAH SURE, HONEYPOT (as in the vamp spy sense), RESCUE DOG, and REDDITOR.  I like to see less common and newish terms in the fill.

I misremembered Suzanne Sommers' role on "Three's Company" as *CHRISTY.  It's CHRISSY.  I watched more of this show in syndication as a kid than I care to admit.

"Wind River tribe" is ARAPAHO, relatives of the Cheyenne and allies of the Dakotas.  There are divided into Northern and Southern tribes.  Per Wikipedia, "Since 1878, the Northern Arapaho have lived with the Eastern Shoshone on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and are federally recognized as the Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation."

I remembered the cornmeal-based HOECAKE somehow, but would have been hard-pressed to define one exactly.  It looks like a pancake but is sturdy and dense.  It is so named because hoe was a colloquial term for griddle dating back to at least the 1600s in parts of England, where baking cakes on boards or griddles was commonplace.

LUNULAR (crescent shaped) is a new word to me!  It's very uncommon.  More common forms are lunula and lunulate.

Third baseman Ron CEY, nicknamed "the Penguin," is a six-time MLB all-star.  His name looks misspelled.

The puzzle on November 24, 2017, featured the Mercedes A Class, but today we get the much less admirable C CLASS.  These are compact executive sedans.

I was not ready for the Destiny's Child song "BOOTYLICIOUS" (sample lyrics: "you aint' ready for this jelly") to appear in the New York Times puzzle.

MT. DANA is a prominent peak on the border of Yosemite National Park and the Ansel Adams Wilderness.  It is 13,060 feet.

Did you know Edgar Allan POE went to the University of Virginia?  His room there is now a museum.  It is Number 13 West Range, according to oral history (written records were lost in a fire).  Eerie!

I had a vague idea what Gizmodo is, but Engadget is new to me.  They are both an example of a TECH BLOG.

AGASSI was just recently an answer, about his book Open.  I assume that it is in this book that he wrote tennis is "the loneliest sport."

SADA Thompson was an actress who played Mary Todd Lincoln in the miniseries "Lincoln" and the matron in the 1974-80 series "Family."

Did you know the assassin Sparafucile, in "Rigoletto," by Guiseppe Verdi, is a BASSO?  Did you know there was an assassin in "Rigoletto?"  The title character, a hunchback jester, hires this assassin to kill the Duke, who is a skirt-chaser after Rigoletto's daughter.

I knew the Anna Wintour Costume Center sounded familiar.  I don't think it was part of the puzzle, but on June 8, the MET GALA was an answer, and I must have read about it then.  Wintour, of course, is the Vogue editor-in-chief.

Clever clues: "Where college students might take a stand?" is KEG.  It ain't the '60s any more, kids.   "Apple picker" is EVE.  "Place to get solutions, in brief" is CHEM LAB.  "Store that really should have a spokesperson" is BIKE SHOP, ha ha.  "Call" is amusingly vague for DECIDE.

Well, this was a LOAD of new knowledge to drop on me, but I enjoyed the challenge!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 27, 2018

My time: 11:32.


Daniel Kantor explores idioms in this intriguing puzzle.  Four themed answers have no clues at all.  Instead, the grid themselves provide the clues.  For example, 17 Across has blanks inside the squares, and is FILL IN THE BLANKS.  33 Across' squares are just different SHADES OF GREY.  42 Across has a box drawn around the rectangle of squares that house its answer, which is to be written INSIDE THE BOX.  Finally, 62 Across has lines on the top and bottom of its squares, and the answer is written BETWEEN THE LINES.

This is a novel theme, and I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out those unclued answers.

"Zombie's domain" is not literal (graveyardmall?), but meta-textual: they're found in SCI-FI.

Warhol is best known for soup cans and Marilyn Monroe, but he also painted images of MAOHammer, sickle, Mao Tse Tung!

Did you know SEGA is derived from "Service Games?" Me neither.

I'm not terribly familiar with the Hyundai SONATA.  It's a four-door midsize made since 1985.

Do people say "lambchop" as a term of endearment outside of deliberately over-the-top smarminess?  Does it really substitute for DEAR?

Omar EPPS plays Dr. Eric Foreman (not the one from "That '70s Show," dumbass) on the medical drama "House."

"Card letters" is ST. L, which only makes sense if you call the Cardinals the Cards.

I didn't know the NRA's first ever presidential endorsement was Ronald Reagan.  he'd be jeered out of office as a RINO today.

In art history trivial details you probably knew if you knew something about art, El Greco lived in TOLEDO, Spain.  He is known for his landscapes of the place.  Born in Crete, his real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos.

Baghdad suburb SADR City last appeared on August 16.

KALE as in moolah was last used on August 30, 2017.

Quite a few clever clues this Thursday: For "coverage of the Senate?" I put *CSPAN but it's TOGAS.  "Cause for a shootout" is TIE --- soccer, not gunslinging.  "Sign of summer" is LEO --- I always fall for that one. "Good standing in the Navy?" is SEA LEGS.  For "break up a plot?" I had *DIG but it's HOE.  "Bean sprouts?" is IDEAS.  "Stuff from which some suits are made?" is TORTS.  "Pays for a workout, say" is ACHES.  "Something you might kick after you pick it up" is HABIT.  "Starbuck's order giver" is AHAB --- I admire that one's trickery.

Well, this one wasn't exactly a SNAP due to those meta, sans clues answers.  But it was a fun kind of difficult.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 26, 2018

My time: 7:32


Joel Fagliano doubled up with Melinda Gates to make this puzzle, which initially seems confusing, but then clears up.  Certain phrases that belong with one initial are entered in the puzzle with that first letter doubled, and then clued literally.

For example, "lover of Cummings's poetry?" is E.E. READER.  I think the cleverest clue is "area below 'To:' in an email," which is obviously the CC SECTION.

I don't admire "group of buildings housing a King" (B.B. COMPLEX); it's kind of clunky, and I think "obsession with small metal ammunition" would be better.

It's a funny and fun theme, but I felt there was something missing.  Where's the capper?  It would be nice to have some kind of pun capper to bring it all together.  As it is, it's entertaining but feels light and incomplete.

As I've said before, I don't know nothin' 'bout musical notation or sheet music.  "Musical run with four sharps" is E SCALE.  It seems to be actually called E major.  The similar b chord appeared on April 14.

AMY Grant is the singer with the 1991 #1 "Baby Baby."

I didn't know Adele had a song called "Million Years AGO," but it's pretty easy to guess.

Never heard of a BLUE ROAN, a "horse with evenly mixed black and white hairs."  Some people get mighty particular about what is and isn't a true roan.

ELSA Peretti is an Italian model turned jewelry designer.

There sure are a lot of small liberal arts colleges in America.  ECKERD, founded in 1958, is located in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Go Tritons!

Author Audre LORDE was an African-American lesbian feminist writer on civil rights and social injustice.

Clever clues: "Use a lot?' is PARK.  "Irony?" is FERRIC.

Duke's mascot is the Blue DEVIL.  Not to be confused with Arizona State's Sun Devils.  This came up on October 29, 2017.

Ghost psychic Oda MAE Brown (played by Whoopi Goldberg) was featured on December 11, 2017.

Hmm.  Gotta pick up the PACE, it seems.  EAU well, I'm OFF.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 25, 2018

My time: 6:19.


Ross Trudeau sits back and gives us all good look at his puzzle, which MANSPREADS all over the place (especially the SUBWAY and the TRAINS --- it needs to MOVE / OVER!).   Four themed answers illustrate this in the grid, as the letters M, A, and N get father away from each other: OMANI, MCMAHON, MAMMALIAN, and Pulitzer-prize winning playwright MAXWELL ANDERSON.

Maxwell Anderson won for "Both Your Houses," a 1933 political drama.  I've never heard of him.

Which only underscores my opinion that, although the theme is very clever, and I always appreciate visual themes, some of this fill is pretty obscure for a Tuesday.  VERTEXES, EVERMORE, SLEEP APNEA... dang!

Case in point: Ronan TYNAN, one of the Irish Tenors.

I've heard of Amanda BYNES, barely, but I didn't know she had a show called "The Amanda Show" on Nickelodeon.  It also had Drake Bell in it!  ...I'm not the target audience.

For "courage" I put *VERVE but it's NERVE.

"Hit a four-bagger" is obviously "hit a home run," but I was hesitant to accept HOMER as a verb.

I'm not familiar with the animal ROE DEER.  It's a small, grey-brown deer with a very wide range, from Ireland to Iraq, from Norway to Turkey.

Hoover competitor ORECK makes vacuum cleaners and air purifiers.

MANU Ginóbili is a four-time NBA champion as well as an Olympic gold medal winner.  The name is short for Emanuel.  He was a shooting guard for the San Antonio Spurs.

Mount ELBERT, known as the "gentle giant" due to its easy climb to the summit, is the highest peak in the Rockies, at 14,440 feet.

In other mountain news, something that appears a lot is Mauna LOA, lower than its neighbor Mauna Kea.  It's a volcano!  I never know whether to fill in Kea or LOA.

Joe Biden was the senator from DEL from 1973 to 2009.  It's a scandal that I didn't know that.

We've had tarsus before, but not TARSALS, which is another way of saying the bones of the foot.

Selma director AVA DuVernay last appeared June 30.  She's in this puzzle an awful lot.

Clever clues: "Something common that's not really so common" is SENSE.  "Wet blanket?" is DEW.

Well, it's time I VAMOOSED.  UNTIL next time!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 24, 2018

My time: 4:37.


Sunday's was a Could Not Finish for me.  Even though I love René Magritte and The Treachery of Images is one of my favorite paintings, it was still too difficult for me.  Points for a very thorough theme, though.

So today it was Michael Black's turn.  He must be a fan of syndicated daytime game shows, because he managed to fit JEOPARDY, ALEX TREBEK, WHEEL OF / FORTUNE, VANNA WHITE, and PAT SAJAK all into the puzzle.

Aside from this, I thought there was some unusually devious cluing for a Monday in today's grid.  For example, "just one year, for Venus and Serena Williams" is a very roundabout way of getting to AGE GAP.

I knew that Tatum O'Neal was in a movie called PAPER MOON, but I couldn't have told you she won an Oscar for it.  It was released in 1973.  She played Addie Loggins, a girl who may be a con man's daughter, won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and became the youngest winner ever at the age of 10.

The onetime Apple product IBOOK is not something that registered with me at the time.  It was discontinued in 2006 and replaced with the MacBook.

Geography has never been my strong suit.  The country "below" (south of) Hungary is SERBIA.  Slovakia is to the north!

SAWPIT is not a term in my common parlance. It's a ditch you dig, under the tree you saw, into which the planks fall, so... they don't run away?  I'm not sure.

I was a little confused by "banded gems."  It just means a layered look, as in ONYXES.

ELO is a crossword mainstay.  Today we learn they have a song called "Strange Magic."  They're not really my thing.

GAS station Citgo last showed up in the puzzle on January 15.

Golder VIJAY Singh last appeared on March 27.

The ARAL Sea, which I still sometimes think might be called the "Ural" sea until corrected, was last featured on October 12, 2017.

I did pretty well!  KAN you believe it?  Off I go, prouder and a bit WISER.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 22, 2018

My time: 11:34, not too shabby.


Sam Trabucco constructed this themeless, which features two grid-spanning Across answers and some very clever cluing.  The best is probably "no light amount of work," or HERCULEAN EFFORT.  Other bits of good modern fill are FOOD PORN, CHARLIE ROSE, and THE TIME WARP (the Rocky Horror song).

"Gets hitched" made me think it was a joke, like meaning "gets tied to," but it's about marriage, albeit phrased a way I didn't expect: SAYS I DO.

For a brief while, I had *SYRUP for "shot contents," until I realized that was pretty unlikely even in the world of bartending.  It's SERUM.

The SACK DRESS is a loose-fitting garment that originally became popular in the 1950s.

Here's the quintessential useless clue: "childhood home of Grant Wood and Elijah Wood."  This is not common knowledge, nor is it easily guessed.  It's just a very uninteresting historical footnote to CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa.  Grant Wood was born in Anamosa, Iowa and moved there at the age of 10.  Elijah Wood was born there.

PERU is a crossword constant.  Today it's clued as "home of the 11,000-foot-deep Cotahuasi Canyon."  It's the deepest canyon in the world, maybe!

The first episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE was titled "Where is Everybody?"  Airing in 1959, it depicts an Air Force astronaut in training who finds himself in a ghostly town, still running normally but otherwise totally deserted of any other people.

I somehow recalled the name of actress TERI Polo, who played the fiancée and later wife of Ben Stiller in the Fockers film series.

"River from the Appalachians" is the PEE DEE, a river running through the Carolinas and emptying into Winyah Bay.

Also in geography, IOLA is a small city in southeast Kansas.  It is not that remarkable.  Clued here as "SW of Kansas City," for what that's worth.

I know the word parse having to do with grammar, but I didn't know a PARSER was a type of computer program that analyzes input.

"ZOEY 101" is an old Nickelodeon show about the first girl to attend a private boarding school.  Never heard of it.

"Elektra" is a one-act opera by Richard STRAUSS which premiered in 1909.  It adapts the original myth by removing some of the background information, rendering Elektra's obsession with revenge on her mother Klytaemnestra more evil and unhinged.

TIM O'Hara is the name of the character played by Bill Bixby, host to his "uncle" the Martian on "My Favorite Martian."  The character was played by Jeff Daniels in the 1999 movie.

Renaissance painter Guido RENI appeared on July 1.

Wine aperitif KIR appeared on January 5.

Author Jon AGEE was showcased on October 5, 2017.  Today he's cited as the author of the work Smart Feller, Fart Smeller and Other Spoonerisms.

"Big Brother" host Julie CHEN appeared on December 16, 2017.

Clever clues: "Eats before dinner?" is not meant to be read as a verb-predicate, but a noun followed by a descriptor: APPETIZER is the pre-prandial eats.  "Dramatic opening" is ACT I.  "Go down or come up" is OCCUR.  "Way to get around writer's block?" is PRESS PASS --- now that's a good joke.  "They usually revolve around steps" is AA MEETINGS.  "Crib users" is CHEATERS.

Well, I CONCEDE --- this was a clever, fun puzzle.  But I did PRETTY well, especially compared to earlier this week.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 21, 2018

My time: 20:06, a minute and a half slower than average.


Zhouqin Burnikel created this themeless, which gave me a lot of trouble with its unusual fill and vague clues.  I have to admire the inclusion of CRIME BOSS ("El Chapo, notably), DUDE RANCH, STALIN ERA ("1924 to 1953"), ICE PALACE ("skating site"), and others, often with punny clues.

TAOS has come up several times, but here it's TAOS Ski Valley, "one of the highest municipalities in the US" at 9,200 feet.

We all know Fibonacci was an Italian, but did you know he was a PISAN?  Another fun fact: that name was made up in 1838, 600 years after his death.  His real name was Leonardo Pisano Bigollo.

In addition to being fantastic fill, a TATAMI MAT is a rice straw and rush mat covering the floor of a Japanese house or restaurant.

I think "unwanted messages" is a bit deceptively mild for HATE MAIL.

IDA Tarbell was a journalist and lecturer, a muckracker who "took on" Standard Oil by writing an exposé in 1904 called The History of the Standard Oil Company, a book which discussed the corrupt inner practices of the massive trust.  Her book would also lead to the Hepburn Act in 1906 to oversee the railroads, the 1910 Mann-Elkins Act which gave the Interstate Commerce Commission power over oil rates, and the creation of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 1914.

I did not know that Sandra Day O'CONNOR wrote a boom called Out of Order: Stories From the History of the Supreme Court.

I also didn't know DRAKE had an 2015 album (called a mixtape by he man himself) called If You're Reading This, It's Too Late.

GOP org. is RNC, also clued as "letter after Senator Richard Burr's name," because he's the Republican senator from North Carolina, in which case it's written R-NC.

MIA is a brand of facial care product made by Clarisonic.

Clever clues: "Gas" is EMPTY WORDS.   "Effect of surplus oil" is ACNE -- I was tricked and thought about shale oil.  "Took courses under pressure" is a very amusing way to say "STRESS ATE."  "Core group?" is SEEDS.  "Baby carriers" is MAMAS.

Well, like yesterday, this one took way too long, but I SUPPOSE at least it didn't come to DEAD END.  At least I finished, so I made it out with my pride INTACT.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 20, 2018

My time: 21:59, a full four minutes than the Thursday average.


I don't know how it appeared in the paper, but in the app, Sam Ezersky's tangled web of a puzzle was presented in what I think is an unfair way.  Aside from that, it was just really hard.  But I don't mind difficulty; I dislike it when clues aren't written correctly.

So, the trick of this puzzle is that some portions of some answers appear in a zigzag fashion across the white squares that alternate, in a sort of zipper fashion.  The parts of answers that do this are words that mean filaments, which of course are things that could be crisscrossed in this fashion in real life.

For example, "series of exchanges in a chat window" appears in the puzzle as MESSAGE T, but continuing on through the zippered white squares after that answer, up and down, it reads MESSAGE T/H/R/E/A/D.

"Group that bows onstage" is a pun, which is kind of rough being on top of an especially tricky theme.  It's G SECTION.  With the zigzag part, which precedes this answer, you get S/T/R/I/N/G SECTION.  They use bows!  Ha ha!  Get it??

What really bothered me was the answer for "woven into."  It's INTERL, but if you grasp the gist of this theme by now, you know it continues INTERL/A/C/ED WITH.  The problem is that the clue for the answer reading ED WITH is just "-".  So I wasted a lot of time putting in variants of *EM DASH and so on.  That clue should have been "see 35 Across" or "continuing to be woven into" or something.  Not the meaningless "-".  Boo!  Bad cluing!

And now the fill.

I tripped myself up too; I can't only blame the cluing.  For "African menace," I really wanted it to be *RHINO but it's MAMBA.  For "run out, as a well," I couldn't understand why *DRY UP didn't fit!  Duh, it's GO DRY.  There's more than one way to say something.  I also gave up on "part of a Disneyland postal address," fixating on some street I'd never be able to guess.  It's ANAHEIM CA, double duh!  For "tour division" I put *LEG, as in the Tour de France, but it's GIG, as in a concert tour.

Did you know "Jay Leno's Garage" is aired on CNBC?  Me neither.

SAL soda is sodium carbonate, used to make glass and soap powder.

"I GET IDEAS" is a 1951 song written by Dorcas Cochran, based on a 1927 Spanish song.  It was recorded by Tony Martin, Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, and Louis Armstrong.  Here are the lyrics.

"One from the Land of Cakes" baffled me.  I only put SCOT because it seemed to fit.  Although half a Brit, I have never in my life heard that Scotland is the Land of Cakes due to its famous oatmeal cakes.

I don't like the spelling AMUCK.  I prefer amok.

I'm not much of a comics reader these days, but I have been reading them for around 35 years or so.  And I had no idea what to put for "alter ego for Lex Luthor."  ATOM MAN?  Turns out it's a name from the old film serials.

"In the cellar" is, surprise surprise, a sports term.  It means in LAST place in baseball.

A BEGONIA is a brightly colored perennial with sepals but no petals.

Drake University is located in Des Moines, so its attendees, if in-state, are IOWANS.

The sun god Inti (worshiped by an INCA) was revealed on May 31.

"Six-time MLB All-Star Rusty" STAUB appeared as an ex-Expo on April 6.

EMI, that old crossword standby, appeared as a parent of Parlophone on January 21.

The abbreviation NSEC appeared on November 27, 2017.

Clever clues: "Outing at which participants go hog-wild?" is BOAR HUNT.  "They're connected to arteries" is SIDE ROADS.  "You'll never get to the bottom of this" is ABYSS.  "Corresponding need?" is EMAIL ACCOUNT.  "Blue-green?" is SEASICK.

Woo, this was tough all around.  ALAS, I had a TUN of trouble.  The funny clues MADE IT BETTER, a bit at least.  Well, must DASH.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 19, 2018

My time: 6:11, great!


Scott Ober and Jeff Chen, mensches and yiddisher kops both, celebrate YIDDISH with this puzzle, which features TCHOTCHKE, SCHMALTZ, CHUTZPAH, OY GEVALT, MEGILLAH ("long, involved account"), and VERKLEMPT.

It's a great idea that allows for some very impressive fill placement, and is my favorite kind of theme: one that helps you solve the puzzle.  After all, it's a safe bet that you'll get YIDDISH before you fill in those tricky Germanic spellings.  For me, it was MEGILLAH that revealed the theme.

I'm not familiar with the TV special/documentary "Frank, LIZA, and Sammy: The Ultimate Event," but failing another Rat Packer, the Queen of Broadway seems like a legit choice to share the stage.

For "girl or boy intro" I put *IT'S A, but it's actually ATTA.

The Rose Bowl (in Pasadena, CA) is an OVAL, apparently.  Is it?  Mostly.

Moses climbed up Mt. SINAI to hear what God had to say.  "I'll be back," he told the Israelites.  "Wash yourselves and don't touch your women!"  He must have been a popular guy.  He came back down bearing the ten commandments.  SINAI is also called Mt. Horeb in the Bible.

The University of Houston's same-city rival is RICE.  Ah, the classic Cougars-Owls matchup.

I thought the once-regular visitor on "The Oprah Winfrey" show was Dr. PHIL, but it's disgraced quack DR. [Mehmet] OZ.

Did you know Alan ALDA has been nominated for 34 Emmys?  That's a lot.

"Painter's primer" GESSO, last seen December 17, 2017, makes a reappearance.

Clever clues: "Part of XXX" is TIC.  "One of the Gulf States (abbr)" is ALA --- the Gulf of Mexico, not the Persian. 

Unlike yesterday's puzzle, this one did not make me say, "I GIVE!"  Bring on the RAVES!  Commence to CLAP!  And so on.  I'm OUTTA here!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 18, 2018

My time: 8:05.


Greg Johnson had a real gas constructing this puzzle, in which several gases are answers.  The kicker is that each answer corresponds to a cluster or row of circles letters that represents that gas's molecular structure.

So for example CARBON MONOXIDE is referenced in October 14, 2017 answer AMOCO: O-C-O.  METHANE is represented in the puzzle as C with four H atoms on each cardinal point, in WITH CHEESE crossed with the down answer AHCHOO.  And Sixteen Candles director JOHN HUGHES contains N with H on either side, H-N-H, with one more H on the south side from UH-UH ("no way, José").  This is the chemical structure of AMMONIA.

This puzzle is scienterrific!

In the fill, European capital SOFIA is clued as having a "name most people incorrectly accent on the second syllable."  It's pronounced by Bulgarians with the accent on the first syllable: SOFF-eeya.

NBA coach Steve KERR is an eight-time champion, both as a player (with the Bulls and the Spurs) and as a coach.

The lowest-numbered avenues in Manhattan are on the EAST SIDE.  I once knew this, but it's been a long, long time since I was a New Yorker.

Apparently JORDACHE has a horse head logo.  I'm not a fashion maven.

Sporty autos are GTS, short for Grand Tourer, or Gran Turismo in the original Italian.

Clever clues: "!!!" is OMG.  "group in a pit" is ORCHESTRA. 

I'm really not sure why this took so long.  I knew a lot of the more obscure stuff, like what an OBI is and what MALAR means and the ETO in WWII and that CARE is an NGO.  Maybe it's because it was late at night and I was lying in bed.  Maybe it was the nonspecific clue for the gases.  Either way, this is a slow Tuesday time.  Maybe I should JUG this whole project.  I'm kidding.  ISH.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 17, 2018

My time: 4:51.


Caitlin Reid is angling for congratulations with this clever Monday that has FISH on its mind.  Four themed phrases end in words that have FISH at the end: TELEPHONE POLE, SLIDE TACKLE ("aggressive defensive soccer maneuver"), BLOOPER REEL, and FIDGET SPINNER.

If the pH scale were only reversed, it would be easy to remember, with base being the low end (or bass being low, even) and aces (acids) high.  But it isn't!  The more acid, the lower the score.  Battery acid is a 0; lemon juice is 2; urine is 6.  Bases are high: ammonia is 11 and bleach is 13.

ENOS, grandson of Adam and Eve, is the son of Seth, the forgotten Adam and Eve son.

IONA, a college in New Rochelle, NY, first came up way back on October 5, 2017.

Not much new for me here, and no particularly devious clues, so I got through this one at a rapid PACE.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 16, 2018

My time: 23:38, kinda slow but not too shabby either.


Joel Fagliano says "Uh, What?" in this puzzle by adding an extra schwa sound to several themed answers, and cluing them as written.

"One who's just moved to Portland?" is OREGON TRANSPLANT (from organ transplant --- the "uh" is added to the first word).  "LeBron basketball sneaker, e.g.?" is KING JAMES BUYABLE (from Bible).

Now we get political: "intense blowback against a signature Trump proposal?" is RIOTING ON THE WALL (from writing).  I also love SENATOR OF GRAVITY.

I didn't solve easily, and dislike, "bad person to get paired with for a class assignment?" and PROJECT RUNAWAY.  It doesn't parse well.  No one would say someone is a runaway for taking on all the work.  Boo, bad clue.

Anyway, as with all Sundays, there were a few things aside from the theme that I needed help with.

It's only a footnote in history that surveyors who followed Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon used the OHIO River to extend the original Mason-Dixon line.

Andrew AGASSI apparently wrote a tell-all book called Open in 2009.  Never heard of it.

"One of the Leewards" left me baffled.  I didn't know if that was a family name or what.  Finally I remembered that it's a designation for some eastern Caribbean islands.  ST. MARTIN is one of them.   This tiny island is cut in half, French to the north and Dutch to the south.

I also didn't know "flower said to cover the plains of Hades."  It's ASPHODEL, a hardy plant with spiky flowers.  The ASPHODEL Meadows are described in The Odyssey: in the translation by W. H. D. Rouse,"the ghost of clean-heeled Achilles marched away with long steps over the meadow of Asphodel," and the souls of the dead "came to the Meadow of Asphodel where abide the souls and phantoms of those whose work is done."  However, the idea of the flowered plains may predate Homer.

The New York Times crossword puzzle loves a portmanteau.  After all, MURSE appears in this very puzzle.  But PHABLETS?  "Large mobile devices," phone + tablets?  Come on.

In older word news, a SNOOD isn't Dr. Seuss character but a traditional hair net.

TSARS were the rulers during the Time of Troubles, a name which in my mind mostly evokes bloody Irish history.  However, this is a period of Russian history, specifically an interregnum in the 17th century.  After the death of Feodor Ivanovich, the last tsar of the Rurik Dynasty, in 1598, Russia suffered a famine that killed one-third of the population, about two million. Then, during the Polish–Russian War (1605–18), Russia was occupied by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and suffered from many civil uprisings, usurpers and impostors.   The period ended with the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in 1613.

I do not usually see Jewish mystic practice CABALA spelled with a C like that.  It's usually Kaballah, no?

"Ontario city across the river from Buffalo" is FT. ERIE, an Ontario town on the Niagara River.  It is named after the old fort, the last fort to be built due to the Seven Years War.

For "follower of 'ah-ah-ah'" I was thinking of it like a warning and put *NO NO but it's CHOO.

The ABA is a defunct sports organization, the American Basketball Association (there is a current organization of the same name that is unrelated to the old organization), and one of its teams was the Kentucky Colonels.  I thought this might be a team sponsored by fried chicken, but no; the commission of Kentucky Colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Governor of Kentucky. It is recognition of an individual’s noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to our community, state and nation.

I really enjoyed the clue "what '...' may represent" for TYPING.  I was delighted when the penny finally dropped on that one.  It's so prevalent nowadays, yet I don't associate those dots with texting nearly as much I do with the printed word.

Also, # means MATE in chess notation.  But ++ is also used.

"Popular Belgian brews" are STELLAS, as in Stella Artois, which I did not know was Belgian.  I'm a Lambic man, myself, back when I was a drinkin' feller.  Stella Artois is now owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium,

The colored layer of the eye, the UVEA, came up on March 12.

Clever clues: "Tube tops" is CAPS, like those on toothpaste tubes.  "Case load?" is BEER.  "Harmonized" is used here as an adjective, not a verb --- IN UNISON.  "What's better when it's fine?" is ART.   "Workers who are always retiring?" is PIT CREW.  "Root word?" is RAH.  "Provider of green juice?" is SOLAR PANEL.  "Blue man group?" is SMURFS.  "Something made to be destroyed" is PINATA.

I have COME TO realize that these Sunday puzzles are hard.  They really TAX my brain.  See you Monday!  I BET that goes faster.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 14, 2018

My time: 13:18.


John Guzzetta designed this themeless Friday puzzle that boasts only 26 black squares and showcases some impressive fill, such as BEAVIS ("MTV toon teen"), HUNT AND PECK, IT'S A MIRACLE ("hallelujah!"), THAT'S GENIUS, IMAGINE THAT, and SWISS CHARD ("leafy vegetable related to a beet"), among others.

SWISS CHARD is also called silverbeet, crab beet, mangold, and bright lights.  Fun names!  Also, not from Switzerland.

"Differences between colors" isn't about shades or hues.  Instead Guzzetta gets all scientific on us and gives us the literal truth: WAVELENGTHS are what make color.

I thought Miss Piggy's accessory might be *WIG, but of course she has her own hair.  She's always brushing it!  The correct answer is BOA.

Although I've heard the name in connection with music, I had no idea that musician and producer DANGER MOUSE was in the group Gnarls Barkley.  Actually I thought Gnarls Barkley was the name of a solo act.  Also he's won six Grammys.

I've never heard of not-all-that notable novelist DELIA Ephron, sister of scriptwriter Nora.  Interesting tidbit about Nora: she knew who Deep Throat was from the beginning.

DAX Shepard has the kind of name crossword creators love.  He plays Crosby Braverman on "Parenthood."  Also he was in Idiocracy.

An oocyte is just an immature EGG cell.

I thought the 1974 Abba hit was *"MONEY MONEY," but that song is called "Money Money Money," and was released in 1976.  The real answer is "HONEY HONEY."

The mazurka is a lively Polish folk dance in TRIPLE TIME.

"Member of the 1920s Murders' Row" confused me until I got enough crossfill to see it was BABE RUTH and then I remembered that this is a bit of baseball hyperbole, and not a gangster syndicate like Murder Incorporated.

In more sports news, "grounds for a 15-yard penalty" is a LATE HIT.  I'm so clueless about sports I thought it might be a *LATE HUT.  You know, like when they snap the ball.

DEIRDRE of the Sorrows, in Irish legend, was foretold to cause wars with her beauty.  Hearing this, a king, Conchobar, fulfilled the prophecy by raising her in seclusion to be his bride, but then she fell in love with a warrior, and of course jealousy and spilled blood ensued.

Some Pontiacs are GTOS.  Classic Jaguars are XK-ES.

The term SHTETL was used on November 11, 2017, clued as "Yentl setting."  Today it's clued as the setting for Fiddler on the Roof.

The pull-up muscle LAT was defined on April 3 as being the muscle below the delt.

Clever clues: "Offensive line" is BARB, as in the verbal kind.  "School copier, maybe" is CHEATER.  "Future reporter" is SEER --- I kept reading it as someone studying to be a reporter.  "Change the locks?" is DYE.  "Distant stars?" is HAS-BEENS.  "Spit spot" is ROTISSERIE.

Great puzzle!  I don't really review the puzzles, but this would not be a PAN.  That's the TERSEST review ever.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 13, 2018

My time: 10:47.


I was very impressed with this Alex Eaton-Salners creation, which is --- surprise! --- a rebus.  Playing off the old office stable of the [IN] BOX ("where work piles up"and the [OUT] BOX ("where finished work goes"), he has placed [IN] and [OUT] in their own boxes.  Four of the Across answers contain both boxes.

The most impressive instances of this are the grid-spanning THE FOUNTA[IN] OF Y[OUT]H and FROTH[IN]G AT THE M[OUT]H.  Another example, "finding fault with," is CARP[IN]G AB[OUT].

For "fermented milk drink" I stubbornly stuck with *LASSI, even as in the back of my head I knew it was more probably KEFIR.  Likewise, I stuck with "skirt features" *PLEATS when it's FLARES.

"They can be taxed like partnerships" is LLCS.  These were last seen on December 17, 2017.

I can't say I watch a lot of "Dancing With the Stars," so I didn't know the name of the co-host ER[IN] Andrews, 2007's "America's Sexiest Sportscaster."

Cliff Robertson played CHARLY Gordon in 1968's CHARLY, based on Daniel Keyes' 1966 story-turned-novel Flowers for Algernon.  He also played Ben Parker in the first Spider-Man series.

Dick ENBERG was a sportscaster for CBS, NBC, and NBC.  He was never, ever voted "America's Sexiest Sportscaster."  His catchphrases were "touch 'em all" (the bases) and "Oh, my!"  Move over, George Takei!

Now this is actually an interesting tidbit: in 1324, King Edward II defined ONE INCH as the length of three barleycorns.  This had actually been the case since 1066, but he enacted it as the legal definition: "three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end, lengthwise."

Clever clues: "Made a false move?" is DEKED, a hockey term that I know now!  "beach house?" is SHELL.  "The end of mathematics?" is QED.  "Place to get one's kicks?" is DOJO.

Well, this is the kind of cruciverbing that can AMAZE you.  Nice job, Alex!  OLE!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 12, 2018

My time: 8:44.


Jeffrey Wechsler celebrates the fine art of French cooking in this puzzle.  Julia Child's PBS show, "The FRENCH CHEF," probably showcased all of these foods at some point during its run: PETIT FOURS, HORS D'OEUVRES ("literally, 'outside the works'"), and MILLE FEUILLE ("literally, 'thousand-leaf,'" but also known as Napoleon or puff pastry, a layered cream pastry).

Being semi-adept at French really helped this solve.

John MUIR is the name of a naturalist I am somewhat acquainted with but I didn't know he had a National Monument named after him.  It was established by Theodore Roosevelt.

I am not familiar with the term TOWER SUITE ("ritzy hotel accomodations"), but it seems to be a pretty common term in the hotel industry.

SHINZO ABE is the 57th and current Prime Minister of Japan since 2012, having also served from 2006-2007.  He became the first Japanese PM to visit Pearl Harbor on December 27, 2016.

Did you know that about 17% of the land in Holland is RECLAIMED?  Me neither.

The terrorist group ISIS, or ISIL, uses a black and white flag.  Is the "feared" epithet really necessary?  Speak for yourself.

North Carolina county... or lead-in to "-ville" is ASHE.  This came up on October 14, 2017, as the name of the city at least.  The county's largest city and county seat is Jefferson.  Asheville is the county seat of Buncombe County.  So confusing!

The Chevy AVEO appeared on September 15, 2017, but today it's clued as "model renamed the Sonic."

I wrote on June 15 that Interstates 70 and 75 meet at Dayton OHIO; today we learn that I-70 and I-70 cross at OHIO's capital, Columbus.

Clever clues: "Pricey bar" is INGOT.  "Sir, to a Brit" is a rather misleadingly insufficient clue for GUV.  "Rose no longer seen in fields" is PETE.

A tough but fair puzzle.  Would do again.  As a French language BUFF, I enjoyed it. Vive LE ROI!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 11, 2018

My time: 5:00 even.


A moment of silence for those who gave their lives to rescue others.

Timothy Polin let his imagination bloom and cultivated this puzzle, which celebrates FLOWERY LANGUAGE.  Not the Shakespearean kind, but idioms about flowers.  Two of the themed answers are grid-spanning: AS FRESH AS A DAISY and SHRINKING VIOLET.  There's also GILD THE LILY and ENGLISH ROSE, which I did not know is a description, associated with English culture, that may be applied to a naturally attractive woman or girl of traditionally fair complexion.  Goodbye, English rose.

There's some good fill here as well, like DEFANG, OXYMORON, MOSHES, EXHORT, and SATYRS.

I was slowed down dome by putting *AIMS FOR for "places in one's cross hairs" when it's actually TARGETS.

The book WOE IS I, by Patricia T. O'Conner, is a 1996 Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English.

TYRESE Gibson is an actor and rapper who is best known for his roles in The Fast and the Furious series and The Transformers series, both of which I have zero interest in watching.

The last name of elevator innovator Otis is a crossword mainstay, but I don't think I've ever learned that his name is ELISHA Otis.  He was a very clever and original thinker with an amazing beard.

I've never heard of NEAL Boortz, who is a libertarian radio host who seems to enjoy antagonizing everyone from liberals to anti-gay zealots to Confederate-flag waving Southerners.

"Game of Thrones" actress OONA Chaplin appeared on October 24, 2017.

Clever clues: "Broke ground?" is HOED. "Opening on Broadway?" is ACT I.

This was a good, fun, quick Tuesday, just the right level of difficulty, with an admirably executed theme.  Am I in AWE?  Do I GAWP?  No, but am LOKI impressed.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 10, 2018

My time: 5:20.


Jacob Stulberg treats us to some CHEESE / SPREAD in this puzzle.  This means that in four answers, there are circled letters, separated by uncircled letters.  These circled letters, being separated by every other square, spell out cheeses, which are therefore "spread."

For example, DEAD CALM ("complete lack of wind, at sea") contains, in every other letter, E/D/A/M.  Also, "zero-tariff policy"is FREE TRADE, which holds some delicious F/E/T/A.

It's not the type of theme that helps you solve the puzzle; it's really just there to admire after you've finished.  But this is a fairly hard puzzle for a Monday, in my opinion.  There are words in this one that you wouldn't expect this early in the week (BEFELL, EMBARKED ON), and more new information than I'd expect as well.

I don't know.  Maybe I just had an off day.  But I think some of the cluing is a bit tricky for a Monday.  "Shaggy grazer" is somewhat vague for YAK, and "feeling good to wear, say" is rather hard to parse, let alone a direct clue for COMFY.

We've all heard of that lovable scamp AL ROKER, but I had no idea he holds the Guinness world record for longest live weather report.  He set this record in 2014, reporting for 34 hours, to raise funds to benefit the armed forces and USO.

Two of the themed answers is in my opinion a bit abstruse for Monday.  I did fill in BURL IVES from some of the crossfill, but could not have told you he acted in the 1958 film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  He plays the father of Brick Pollitt (Paul Newman), Big Daddy Pollitt, who is dying of cancer.  In this answer you will find B/R/I/E.

Also, BILGE PUMP ("device to remove water from a ship") isn't exactly a common household item.  Hidden within this one is some tasty B/L/E/U cheese.

Apparently Waldorf salad involves CELERY.  It also has apples and walnuts.

SHAGS to mean "retrieves, as baseballs" appeared nearly exactly a year ago, on September 7, 2017.

Clever clue: "Grp. making after-work plans?" is AARP.

Well, as AWED as I may be by the verbal gymnastics required to find words that contain words for cheese in every other letter, I have to judge this crossword by its MERIT and not its difficulty to construct.  The theme is only evident after the puzzle is solved, and I thought it was somewhat tough. AnyHOO, bring on Tuesday!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 9, 2018

My time: 18:55.


I had no "Mixed Feelings" about this one by Hal Moore.  I posted a very good time, and I loved the inventive theme.  Playing off the grid-spanning phrase LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIPS, he arranges for four squares to have words that contain [LOVE] going across but read [HATE] going down.

For example, "neighbor of Hungary" is S[LOVE]NIA.  But it crosses with "why am I not surprised?" which reads as W[HAT E]LSE IS NEW?  In another square, CALIP[HATE] crosses with the pun "pair of diamonds," which is BATTING G[LOVE]S.  Perhaps the most impressive instance of the theme is ROL[L OVE]R IRA ("option for moving an investment") crossed with WORDS TO T[HAT E]FFECT ("basically what was said").

In addition to the theme, there was some little-seen and interesting fill: TOTAL RECALL ("result of a photographic memory"),  AMPERSANDS ("parts of many law firm names"), and IDIOT LIGHTS ("dashboard warnings, informally"), among others.  Even THE FAR SIDE!

My hat's off to you, crossword maven!  Let's have a Hal of a lot Moore by you!

I like "so long, dear boy" for TA-TA.

I didn't know what TD Garden is, but it's an ARENA in Boston, named after its sponsor, Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Although I'm familiar with them, I guess I never knew for sure that Chevy makes the 'VETTE.

The term for an amateur sports group REC league is not one I've heard before.  It is also known as a REC team.

The BOLERO is a dance that is in 3/4 time, at least in the Spanish form.  In the Cuban form it is traditionally in 2/4 time.

For "______ bien!"  I put *TRES but it's ESTA.  Whoops, wrong language!  Ha ha!

"Certain break point" confused me with its laconic vagueness.  The tennis score ad in appeared way back on November 21, 2017, but I don't remember having seen AD OUT before. This means that, at deuce (that is, a tied score of 40-40, or three points each), if the server loses the next point, it is called ad-out as the advantage is out of the server’s favor. If the server loses the next point, the server loses that game, because you must win by two points.

In other tennis news, a "court do-over" is a LET.

"Cries of approval" was YAYS for once instead of the too-common oles.

I have seen movies with the bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but I didn't remember him wearing a MAO SUIT.  According to Wiki, "he often wears a jacket without lapels, based loosely either on the Nehru jacket or on the Mao suit, a feature which is used in spoofs like the Austin Powers series, though in his early two appearances on film he wore a black business suit."

Philip AHN is a Korean-American actor who played all types of Asians in TV and movies.  He played Master Kan in the TV series "Kung Fu."

The OSAGE were a supposedly warlike Great Plains tribe, related to the Sioux, who were said to be typically six feet tall.  They flourished in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys.  The name we call them comes from "warlike," but they call themselves "mid-river people."

A Bali Hai cocktail contains RUM, as one might guess from the name.

TESSA Thompson, who appeared in Thor: Ragnarok as Valkyrie, also appeared here on May 13.

The camera setting F-STOP was discussed (but not actually in the puzzle) on August 30.

Golfer ISAO Aoki last appeared on January 12, but I still needed help with his name.

ACER was clued as "Taiwanese computer giant" as recently as August 5.

Actress NIA Long last showed up on February 21.

Clever clues: "Whopper inventor" is LIAR.  'Minor's opposite" is ADULT (not major, tricked ya!).   "man just after kneeling?" is SIR.  "One smoothing the way?" is PAVER.  "Chocolate chip cookie starters?" is CEES.  "Mustard and saffron" are not spices here but YELLOWS.  "Score starter" is OVERTURE.  "Composes" is CALMS.

This original and fun puzzle did not just METE expectations; it surpassed them!  I've got a YEN for more!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 8, 2018

My time: 25:41, twenty seconds slower than my Saturday average.


Andrew J. Ries came up with this themeless Saturday, which gave me MAJOR trouble.  Lots of weird words and stuff I don't know much about, including sports.

I put together that UNITY is a central principle of the Baha'i faith from my investigation of their tenets and nonagon-shaped temples on May 27.

Balm of Gilead is a RESIN used in perfumery, and mentioned several times in the Bible.

"Practice roster for an NFL team" is TAXI SQUAD.  I've never heard this term.  Why is it even called a taxi squad?  Warning: potentially dubious etymology, smacking of back-formation.

More sports: the GEORGIA DOME, in Atlanta, is the only facility in the world to have hosted the Olympics (the basketball, in 1996), Super Bowl (1994 and 2000), and Final Four (several times).  It was demolished in 2017.  Now all the we have left are the memories.

If something is Florentine, it's also TUSCAN, because Florence (Firenze) is in Tuscany.  It's the capital and the most populous city.

There were so many vague clues and traps I fell into in today's puzzle!  For "follower of Kennedy or Clinton" I put *DEM but it's ERA.  For "baker's unit" I put *DOZEN but it's BATCH.  For "Smoked delicacy" I put *LOX but it's EEL.  I considered several answers for "____ score" --- *NIL, *PAR --- but it's SAT.  I don't like clues that are so open ended.  I have to admire "Excalibur's place;" I thought of *ANVIL and *STONE but it's the casino, in VEGAS.  For "changes color, say" I put *REDYES but it's about color in your face: REACTS.  "Accessory for a bride" is not *TRAIN but TIARA.

Celine Dion is, by birth, a QUEBECER (not how I would imagine the demonym, but there it is).  Unfortunately, *CANADIAN also fit.

I'm proud of myself for knowing BARRE ("dancer's support"), HADJI, and TANGRAM right off.

I've never heard reference to "the Hoboken Four," but it's a musical quartet formed in 1935 after the The 3 Flashes found themselves a kind of talented skinny lad named Frank SINATRA.  They competed in a televised song contest under many names, including the Seacaucus Cockamamies, the Bayonne Bacalas, the Jive Four, and the Jolly Jersey Gypsies of Song.  They broke up after about a year.

DUBOSE Heyward was an author best known for his novel Porgy, which he later adapted with George Gershwin into "Porgy and Bess."

I wasn't sure about the IRS form 1099-INT.  It asks you to catalogue your interest income.

1994 US Open Champ Ernie ELS appeared on December 19, 2017.

A big bagful of clever clues this time around as well: "High note?" is C-SPOT.  "Scratch on the table?" is TIP.  "Cons" is HAS, as in if you were conned you were had --- although I don't think anyone uses it in the present tense.  "People at a theater who don't pay for their tickets" is misleading, because you naturally think of people who sneak in, but it's SEAT FILLERS.  "Name for a big wheel" is FERRIS.  "Small square" is ONE --- I was told there would be no math.  "It provides only partial coverage" is AREA RUG.  This is a devious one: "III, in Ithica" is not asking us for the Greek word for three, as I mistakenly parsed it, but what the letter I is in Greek, so it's IOTAS.  "Jerks' creations" is FLOATS.  "Head, for short" is LAV.

Well, this long solving time just won't CUT IT.  I don't want to come off as NEEDY, but I gotta do better!  No COASTING.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved September 7, 2018

My time: 13:32.


Josh Knapp served up this themeless, which stymies the solver by virtue of its vague and misleading cluing.  There is also a good bit of relatively little-used fill like LUNCH MONEY ("demand from a school bully"), IN A HOLE ("owing money"), BALD PATE ("chrome dome, so to speak"), and ON THE CLOCK ("getting paid, say").  Oh, and DIVING BELL is a great inclusion.

There was a lot of troublesome fill today.

"Stories with many chapters" is SAGAS.  I'm not sure if that's technically true of a saga in the original sense (did the Old Norse authors use chapter breaks?), but I guess in the more figurative sense of just "a long story" it can be true.

I had trouble with the vague "part of a Central American grove;" it's the unexpectedly specific PAPAYA TREE.

A VOLE is known as a "field mouse," but it isn't quite a mouse.  It is a rodent.

A phrase previously unknown to me (or more likely just forgotten) is the Latin IPSE DIXIT ("he said it himself"), which means an assertion made without proof.

I didn't know there's a magazine called "ELLE Decor," but it makes sense and is pretty guessable.

"Place to fish from" turns out to be DORY, as in the type of boat, a traditional fishing vessel.

We've all heard of Fall Out Boy, but we aren't at all au courant with the band's oeuvre.  "Sugar, WE'RE Goin' Down" is a song by them.

For "go on a tweetstorm, say" I put *RANT but it's VENT.

I didn't know Christian DOPPLER was an Austrian physicist, but that he "studied waves" made the answer clear, as that immediately bring to mind his eponymous Effect.

ST. PAUL'S Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill in London, is the burial place of John Donne and Horatio Nelson, it turns out.  Also, Christopher Wren and Alexander Fleming!

"As CHASTE as unsunn'd snow" is a line spoken by Posthumus in Act II of "Cymbeline."  He is ranting about how all women are deceitful.

PILSNER is a beer,  but also a type of tall, skinny beer glass.  Never heard of it, but then, I don't drink beer and never have.

The Egyptian deity Ammit was a crocodile-headed goddess and demon, who also was part lion and hippo, and devoured the SOULS of those were not pure of heart, a qualification measured by weighing the heart against the feather of Maat, goddess of truth.

"Comfy safari digs" is TENT BED.  Is this a real thing?

A WET CELL is a type of rechargeable and high-power battery powered by a liquid electrolyte or other acid, as opposed to a dry-cell battery.

HOBBIT is clued here as "fictional figure whose name means hole-dweller."  According to Wiki: "Tolkien set out a fictional etymology for the name in an appendix to The Lord of the Rings, to the effect that it was ultimately derived from holbytla (plural holbytlan), meaning "hole-builder" (and corresponding to Old English)."

The ARIA Hotel in Vegas came up on January 2.

Clever clues: "It takes time to sink in" is QUICKSAND.  "Fate worse than a ticket" is TOW.  "Pipe sellers" is HEADSHOPS, a term I haven't heard since the '80s when I lived in New York City.  I thought it might be *VAPE SHOPS.  "Tombstone figure" isn't about statuary found on cenotaphs but the Old Western town figure, EARP.  "Leg up" is EDGE, as in an extra bit that helps you win, a leg up on the opponents.  "Resource for an artist to draw on?" is SKETCHBOOK.  "What a colon might denote" isn't a *LIST but EYES, as when in an emoji :) --- that's clever. "Like some fish and olives" is SPEARED.

Well, I didn't do too badly this GO-ROUND.  Remember, doing difficult crosswords keeps your mind JUNG!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 6, 2018

My time: 16:35.


Jeff Chen used about 90% of his brain on this devious one, which is more clever than it appears.  Playing off the phrase TIP OF THE ICEBERG ("hidden trouble indicator"), he arranges seven Down answers that are real words, but appear to have nothing to do with their clues; however, if you put an imaginary letter at the top of the answer, it satisfies the clue.  These imaginary, unseen letters spell out iceberg, as in the TIP that is seen, while the rest of the puzzle, one then imagines, makes up the hidden 90% OF THE ICEBERG.

The themed answers are as follows.   "It's symbolized by a star and a crescent," reading as SLAM, but actually [i]SLAM.  "Entry fees" is [c]OVERCHARGES.  "Comes out" is [e]MERGES.  "Exposes" is [b]ARES.  "Like Confucianism or Taoism" is [e]ASTERN.  "Formal rejection" is [r]ENUNCIATION.  And finally, "put the pedal to the medal" is [g]UN IT.

See how those added, imaginary letters spell out iceberg in order?  Clever!

OSLO appears in the puzzle very often, but happily, seemingly with a variety of clues.  Here it's as the home of "The Scream."  The landscape in the picture is recognizable as the Kristiania Fjord seen from Ekeberg, with a broad view over the fjord, the town and the hills beyond.

"Dweller along the Don" is SLAV.  It is located in Russia and empties to the Sea of Azov (an answer on July 12).

I didn't know that a "closer" is a baseball term, designating a relief picther who gets the final outs.  Success for a closer is thus a SAVE.  Wiki says "a closer's effectiveness has traditionally been measured by the save, an official Major League Baseball statistic since 1969."  Okay then.  I don't pretend to understand the sabermetrics.  I took it to mean that someone who ended (closed) a game did it by catching a ball (saving it, I guess).

I have never heard of "popular online comedy duo" RHETT and Link.  They sound kind of stupid.

The Mosque of OMAR is a mosque built in 1193, located across from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Did you know March Madness victors got to keep the NETS?  Me neither.  The winning team cuts the nets off the hoop.  The practice started in 1947.

I'm a huge "Dr. Strangelove" fan but had forgotten that Major T.J. "King" KONG was the name of Slim Pickens' unforgettable character,

I didn't know that ESPERANTO means literally "a hopeful person" but it's pretty easy to figure out when you know your romance cognates.

Never heard of the Book of Shadows, but I knew it had to be something occult.  To answer who would be reading it, I put *WIZARDS and then *WITCHES and finally saw it was WICCANS.

For "Alexander the Great, to Aristotle" I put *PUPIL but it's TUTEE.

"Kind of operation in number theory, for short" is MOD.  Modular arithmetic is when you compute with remainders, which can be visualized by turns around a numbered clock face.  For example, 3 mod 12 is 3 (because it increments three times), but 16 mod 12 is 4 because it completes one turn and then increments four more times for the remainder.

Stylishness is SASS?  Huh?  Why?  I don't get it.

The snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark were ASPS, which I guess we should know because after Indy says "Why did it have to be snakes?" Sallah replies, "Asps…very dangerous."

LAPIN is French for rabbit, and apparently it's also a name for rabbit fur.

Did you know October 13 is No BRA Day?  Me neither.

It was suggested that CHER is the "Goddess of Pop" on August 8.

"B+, e.g." was ION on August 28, so I put the same for "F-, e.g." pretty quickly.

Clever clue: "Idle on the set" is ERIC.  "Exchange of swear words?" is I DOS.  I like the clue "it may involve dips, in two different senses" for SALSA.  "It's between an A and a B" is NINETY.  "Puzzle in which people take turns solving" is MAZE.  For "leader of the land down under?" I put *SANTA because I guess I was stupidly thinking he lived at the South Pole?? but it's obviously his anagram brother, SATAN.  "Out" is a good vague clue for ALIBI.  Likewise, "nips" is good for EDGES --- they both mean "to beat someone in a game slightly."

Man, that's a lot to write.  This puzzle was more than SORTA difficult.  For some of this stuff, I had NO IDEA!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 5, 2018

My time: 5:32, about 16 seconds slower than the record!  I'm on a roll this week!


The Terrific Trio of Amanda Chung, Karl Ni and Erik Agard synergized their best qualities to bring us this exercise in TEAM BUILDING, a "goal for six answers in this puzzle."  Six NFL teams are created by solving two-part rebus or charades-like clues.  For example, "actor Lundgren + elected officials" is DOLPH + INS, or DOLPHINS.  "Butter square + hilarious people" is PAT + RIOTS, OR PATRIOTS.  My favorite is "London's Big ____ + ladies" which is BEN + GALS, or [Cincinnati] BENGALS.

The first themed answer, and the only one I had trouble with, is "'Whatever You Like' rapper + gets some color at the beach."  I knew the second part was TANS, but I'd never heard of the song in the first part.  It's T.I., whom I've heard of but don't know anything else about.

OMAN is the Arabian land near the Strait of Hormuz.  This is a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.   On the north coast of the strait lies Iran, and on the south coast the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman.

"Take a stand by not standing."  KNEEL.  I like it.

LUNISOLAR is not a word I've encountered before.

There are extra innings at times in baseball games, but it doesn't look like people use the phrase TENTH INNING all that much.  It is the name of a follow-up Ken Burns documentary about baseball.

Somehow I remembered the Linux operating system UBUNTU.

I was not tricked this time around for Queen stadium name ASHE, which has come up several times since October 11, 2017.

"Mr. Robot" actor RAMI Malek last appeared August 12.  Surely after so many appearances I know him. Starting... now.

Western Hemisphere grp. OAS appeared way back on October 17, 2017.

Exodus hero ARI Ben Canaan was chosen for puzzle glory on October 4, 2017.

I came so close to beating my personal best today.  Don't worry, I'VE GOT A PLAN to beat the record.  It's to go faster next time.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 4, 2018

My time: 4:40, twenty seconds slower than my record!


Bruce Haight celebrates THE EIGHTIES ("when Pac-Man and Rubik's Cube were popular"), or more phonetically, the A.T.'s.  Which means the themed answers start with A and T.  These four themed answers are ALL TOGETHER ("in unison"), ATOMIC THEORY, AIRPORT TERMINAL, and ANCHOR TENANT ("big department store in a mall, e.g.").

TAG UP, as in to retouch a base after a fly-out, came up on December 28, 2017.

USA is the network for "Mr. Robot" and "Suits," as shown on August 7, 2018.

Clever clues: "One involved with a grand opening?" is PIANO TUNER.  "Pair of skivvies?" is VEES.

I SAY, this was an easy one.  AND HOW --- there was nothing new to me.  Well, I'M OFF.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 3, 2018

My time: 3:39, nine seconds shy of the record.


Trent H. Evans gets our minds moving and our thoughts racing with this one, which showcases four phrases that start with action gerunds.  "Defenseless target" is SITTING DUCK, "directive that's in force until canceled" is STANDING ORDER, "notice when getting fired" is WALKING PAPERS, and "repeated comical reference" is RUNNING JOKE.

What I like especially about this is that the four action words are in order of least to most movement.

Images on Kansas City Chiefs' helmets are ARROWHEADS.  Good fill word.  And inside the image are the letters KC.

I'm not familiar with Alaska's North Slope, but it only takes a passing familiarity with the state to know that its resource must be OIL.  The Alaska North Slope region includes the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska.  The region also includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  It's not a great mix.

There were a lot of old crossword friends in this one:

Ancient Asia Minor region IONIA was discovered on December 29, 2017.

Hawaii's tallest mountain Mauna KEA first popped up on September 4, 2017 --- nearly a year ago to the day!

Pitching stat ERA (Earned Run Average) had its attempted definition on February 22.  At first I had *RBI, which is a stat for a hitter, because I don't know jack about any sports.

Broncos QB John ELWAY appeared on December 10, 2017, and I remembered him!

Pre-CIA organization OSS was last uncovered on December 27, 2017.

We met newsman and "Meet the Press" host Chuck TODD on June 4.

NPR host ARI Shapiro first appeared October 31, 2017, and a few times since.

YIPES, this puzzle was crazy easy.  In addition to there being almost no trouble spots, there was a lot of material that had already been covered in this blog.  If I had just typed in the letters a little faster, I'd be a big winner, BRO.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: September 2, 2018

My time: 23:58, not that good.


Tom McCoy designed this one, with the title "Going Head to Head."  It showcases eight classical rivalries, but with a twist.  The title gives us a clue: the first name is printed in the puzzle backwards, so the two characters in the rivalry are going, in fact, head to head.  So we have DIVAD [vs.] GOLIATH, NAMTAB JOKER, SUESEHT MINOTAUR, and so on.  My favorite is ETOXIUQ WINDMILL.

The David-Goliath one was the first I filled in, but wrongly (i.e., I put David left to right).  After I saw the title, I suspected the first name had to be changed in some way, because Mario wasn't fitting in OIRAM BOWSER.

It's tricky to fill in, but is it wit?  I got through most of this puzzle fairly quickly, but a couple of rough patches made the time drag.

The Durham Bulls are an AAA baseball team out of North Carolina.

"One of the o's in o/o" confused me.  It's OWNER, as in OWNER-operator, mostly used in the trucking industry.

ENO is a near-weekly answer in crosswords, but this time it's playwright Will ENO, who was nominated for the Pulitzer for "Thom Pain (based on nothing)" and won an Obie for "The Open House."

DRAKE University is in Des Moines, Iowa.  The fighting Bulldogs!

The protein shell of a virus is called a CASPID.  Caspid the friendly virus coat.

"TD Garden athlete" is BRUIN.  TD Garden is an arena in Boston, named for TD Bank, a Canadian financial concern.  The Boston Bruins are the ice hockey team.

ELISE Stefanik is a New York Representative to Congress.  First elected at the age of 30, she was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress at the time.  She is a member of the Republican Party.

I'm a geography know-nothing.  "Body of water connected by canal to the Baltic" is the WHITE SEA.

The NSA is based in Ft. Meade, Maryland.  Or so they'd like you to think!  According to their website, "One reason the site was selected was because it was deemed far enough away from the capital in case of a nuclear strike."  That's reassuring.

Wapitis are actually ELKS.  And apparently the more accurate name.

The TV show "GLEE" is set in William McKinley High School for the Arts, a fictional school in Lima, Ohio.

"One out four" in a grand slam" is RBI, which I learned on July 9, but promptly forgot, and was surprised anew.

Clever clues: "Potential queens" is PAWNS.  "Strong suit?" is ARMOR.  "Tours can be seen on it" is a legitimate pun for the LOIRE.  "Brightly colored blazer" is SUN.  "They're found under a bridge" is NOSTRILS.  "Under half of 45?" is B-SIDE.

This was a tough one.  AH, ME. 

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"...