Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 31, 2018

My time: 6:00 even.

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It's Wednesdie, Shocktober Thirty-cursed!  Halloween!  And what a spooky puzzle Bruce Haight has constructed for us today.   Under a cross made of black squares, a single word, untouched by the rest of the grid, lies on the last Across row underneath an H-shaped "bed" of black squares.  This word is, appropriately enough, CRYPT.

But helkpfukl soul that he is, Bruce literally spells out the theme for us in Down answers.  In order, we have SEA SERPENT, ARE WE GOOD, WHY ME, PEA GRAVEL, and TEA BISCUIT.  The first words of these five answers, as any fool can plainly see, spell out C-R-Y-P-T.  And that's the THEME!

AGASP!  That's some clever crosswording.

There's also some nice fill here, too: ARAMAIC, ROTARY CLUBS, KGB MOLE, NEST EGG, TAX LAWS, E.R. DOC, VIDEOCAM, and others.  That's an impressive grid!

St. OLAF College, founded in 1874 in Northfield, Minnesota, boasts, "we don't turn out typical college grads. We turn out Oles.  Oles are the people companies want.  Oles are the people the planet needs.  Are you an Ole?"  Well, are you?

"Rival of Cassio, in Shakespeare" is IAGO.  This villain is known for his tormenting of Othello, but it's not as widely known that IAGO resents the Florentine Michael Cassio for being promoted to Othello's second-in-command instead of him.

ORB as an image on the king of clubs gave me pause.

"___ Affair" is a terrible clue for the XYZ Affair, an intrigue-filled period in American history which almost led to war.  The letters in question represent coded identities of French intermediaries who demanded bribes from US representatives before they would be allowed to meet with the minister, Talleyrand, to discuss making relations between the two nations cordial.

RIGA, Latvia was clued on August 16 as "largest city in the Baltic states."

Clever clues: "It's not a good look" is OGLE.  "Story of a lifetime, for short?" is OBIT.

This puzzle was terrific!  It was an appropriate and challenging theme, with some very clever wordplay.  It did not GO FLAT at any point.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 20, 2018

My time: 6:25.

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Jules Markey gets a head start on Halloween with a pun on the GRAVEYARD SHIFT (clued punnily, albeit technically incorrectly, as "late night for a working stiff").  Six Across clues have the tombstone inscription "RIP" in them: RIPOSTES, EGO TRIPS ("narcissists' excursions?"), TRIPTYCH, MR. RIPLEY, GIVE A RIP ("care about something, in slang"), and SUN-RIPEN (put on a windowsill to mature, say").

The fill is otherwise decent.  I like STYLIZED (like P!nk and Ke$ha's names), GO FLY A KITE, and MYRIAD.

ORONO, home to the University of Maine, appeared way back on March 13.  Today it is clued as "university town named for an Indian chief."  The New York Times puzzle is often surprisingly tone-deaf when it comes to Native American affairs.  Chief Joseph ORONO, the blue-eyed Penobscot chief, corresponded with George Washington and sided with the Americans in the War of Independence.

In other Native American news, "Delaware Valley tribe" is LENAPE.  This tribe is originally from what is now New York, Delaware, and New Jersey.  Present-day Delaware tribespeople live in Oklahoma and Kansas.

While "JFK alternative" is LGA, "JFK alternative in 1960" is RMN, which I thought may refer to Stafford Regional Airport in Virginia?  But LaGuardia was open in 1939, so I just didn't get it. Then it hit me: this isn't about airports!  RMN is Richard Milhous Nixon! Ha.

"Removes, as from a fixed rate" is UNPEGS.  Pegged is an investment term of art.  A fixed rate is just that, fixed to a stable rate, like gold, or other currencies to the dollar.  A pegged rate is a hybrid of fixed and floating exchange rates.

On October 2, "Lady of Spain" was dona and I mistakenly put DAMA.  Today, DAMA is the right answer to that same clue.

Author EDA LeShan appeared just the other day, October 24.

Schubert's "The ERL King" appeared on August 21.  I still didn't remember it right away, but at least this time I knew it wasn't elf!

Clever clues: "Like a river at its mouth, not at its head" is BROAD.  "Hog heaven?" is STY.  "Like ghosts and goblins?" is PLURAL --- that's a devious one.

This was a great Tuesday.  Timely, not too tough, but with some tricky clues.  This one gets an AYE vote from me; no BOO.  It is A-OKAY.  I'M A FAN?  No, that's going too far.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 29, 2018

My time: 4:16, pretty swift!

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Peter Gordon gives us this colorful puzzle, in which five answers have in common "black and white animals" in their names.  The theme is given away in the clues, which kind of ruined the fun for me.  I would have been a lot more amused by seeing the answers without an explicit connection being made, and at the end maybe a capper clue like "how old TV was watched, or what the theme answers have in common" with the answer black and white.

But as it is, we are told right out that PUFFIN BOOKS, ZEBRA CROSSING, PANDA EXPRESS, PENGUIN SUIT, and SKUNK CABBAGE make up the theme because they share animal names.  I found it a bit ho-hum, unfortunately.

I know LENA Dunham from her show, but I doubt I would have been able to identify her from her book Not That Kind of Girl.

Pago Pago is listed in the puzzle as being in SAMOA, but that's not entirely accurate.  It's the capital of American Samoa.  On June 15 the capital of the independent nation of Samoa, APIA, was identified.

ESSEN is a city in Germany was one of Germany's most important coal and steel centers from the onset of mass industrialization to about 1980.  Nowadays it is striving to be a green capital.

Yes, we know Guadalajara is in MEXICO, but do we also know that it's the capital of Jalisco, and known for tequila and mariachi music?  I took a class in Mexico history ages ago, so I forgot, if I ever knew.

I would TSE this was a pretty easy puzzle!  I'm disappointed with the unsubtle theme, but harbor no ANIMUS otherwise.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 28, 2018

My time: 22:07.

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Erik Asgard mixes it up a bit with this Sunday, titled "Match Play."  On several Across answers, the clue is given as an apparently unrelated phrase in italics.  Through solving, one discovers that these clues are actually anagrams of the answers, which are split into two words plus the word AND.

For example: "Sou'wester" is SWEET AND SOUR, the words sweet and sour together being an anagram of the clue.  "Peace marches" can be anagrammed to PEACHES AND CREAM (minus the and, of course).  "Growth ring" becomes RIGHT AND WRONG.  And so on.

Thus, the theme suggests a game of... MIXED DOUBLES.

Actress TERI Polo appeared in this blog on September 22 as playing Ben Stiller's wife in the Fockers series.  But here she's clued as being on the TV show "The Fosters."

Never heard of it: the BACHATA is a social dance popular in the Dominican Republic.

There's a word for it: the APOLUNE is the farthest point in orbit around the moon.  It is a type of apsis.  Not to be confused with aphelion.

There's a word for this too: CUESTAS are hills with steep faces on one side and gentle slopes on the other.

ANDY Cohen is the host of a late night talk show, "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen."  He is the first openly gay host of an American late-night talk show and the first live late-night host.

Dutch racecar driver and two-time Indy 500 winner ARIE Luyendyk is known as "the Flying Dutchman."

In other sports news, ACE is a term used in tennis (a point-winning serve), golf (a hole in one), and baseball (the best pitcher on a team).

Did you know CHE Guevara is interred in Santa Clara, Cuba?  Do you think the New York Times is right to call him a "hero?"  Please discuss.

More sports: "rhyming nickname in Cardinals history" is STAN THE MAN, which refers to Stan Musial, first baseman who spent 22 seasons with the Cards.

We've all heard of ESPN, but I didn't know they were based in Bristol, Connecticut.

We've all heard of SEGA, but I've never heard of the game Zaxxon.  It is a 1982 isometric shooter arcade game (whatever that means), developed and released by Sega, in which the player pilots a ship through heavily defended space fortresses.

DIANA Taurasi is a WNBA player with more records and awards than anyone could list in a day.  Her nickname? White Mamba, baby.

The Navajo Nation has its own capital: WINDOW ROCK, Arizona.  It's named for a local landmark, an arch which forms a rock with a hole, or window, through it.  Window Rock's population was 2,712 at the 2010 census, but is estimated to reach around 20,000 during weekdays when tribal offices are open.

I didn't understand the clue "relatively cool stellar phenomenon" for STARSPOT.  But it turns out Wikipedia says "Observed starspots have a temperature which is in general 500–2000 kelvins cooler than the stellar photosphere."

EERO SAARINEN was revealed to be the designer of Dulles on May 3.

I remembered DRU Hill from May 21.

Clever clues: "Do the wave?" is SURF.  "Not able to catch something" is IMMUNE.  "They might break out in hives" is BEES.  "Shed material" is FUR.  "Good throw?" is AFGHAN.

Well, that wasn't SEW difficult!  I liked the theme, and I appreciate learning a few new words.  Still, all this new stuff will TIRE a fellow out.  I'm DONE.  Time to EXIT.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 25, 2018

My time: 23:13, a full six minutes slower than average.

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I nearly gave up several times on this puzzle by Neville Fogarty.  The theme eluded me, the answers baffled me, and I just couldn't get a toe hold.

Finally, finally, the penny dropped and I saw the theme.  This is a meta theme, or rather a rebus disguised as a not-rebus.  17 Across is "footnote info," PAGE.  The next clue is "see 17 Across," which is not, as it appears, an indication to look at and consider the answer at 17 Across, but rather a rebus: the word see + [17 Across answer].  Looking at it in this way, the clue becomes see+page, which is LOST LIQUID.

"See 29 Across" is see+THE, or DO A SLOW BURN.  "See 45 Across" is see+SAW, or GO UP AND DOWN.  (This particular themed answer is tough because of the vague clue for SAW, "oft-repeated words.")  And "See 61 Across" is see+KING ("bed selection"), which is IN SEARCH OF.

Whew!

"Rough spots?" is ACNE, which took me a while even though I considered that answer early on, because, is acne particularly rough?

We've all heard of Salt-n-PEPA, but I sad no idea her birth name is Sandra Denton.

"Neighbor of a jayhawker" is OKIE.  A jayhawker is someone from Kansas; the origins of the term are unclear.  Some do say the first jayhawkers were anti-slavery Kansans, and the term was thought to have been inspired by a cross between a hawk and a blue jay, taking on the predatory habits of the former, and the noisy nature of the blue jay.  They fought the Bushwhackers, or the pro-slavery faction.

Dutch artist Jan van der MEER is also known as Jan Vermeer van Haarlem, and is not the famous Vermeer who preceded him, but a lesser Dutch dabbler.

New word alert!  The tail of a rabbit has its own term: SCUT.  I like it!

I think the answer at "gobbled (up)" is unfairly devious: SNARFED.  *SCARFED is more common and means the same thing.

George Bernard SHAW wrote a 1923 play about Joan of Arc called "Saint Joan," considered to be "a tragedy without a villain."

The rapper AKON appeared on January 26 as the distinguished author of the #1 2007 hit "Don't Matter."  Today he is noted as the genius behind the 2006 hit "Smack That."  Featuring Eminem!

ANGOLA was noted to be a member of OPEC in this blog on April 13.

Deep blue dye ANIL last appeared on August 12.

Clever clues: "Something that's tailor-made" is HEM.  "What may blossom from buds?" is BROMANCE --- that's a good one.  "Worker in a chamber (abbr)" had me puzzled for a while; it's SEN.  "Tears for Fears, e.g." is a devilishly devious one that got me good.  It's TYPO.  Wow.  "Boots" is POWERS UP.

Whew!  This was a tough one.  I NEED to lie down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 24, 2018

My time: 9:20, not great.

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Today's crossword is brought to us by Michael Paleos, who directs our attention to the POP-UP AD in the corner.  This is an indication that four places in the puzzle, an answer is interrupted by one of these.  Quite literally --- four answers have two circled squares each that have the letters "AD" in them.

Below these are two black squares.  The AD is "popping up" above the answer below, and further is interrupting that answer.  So for example, "Classic strategy in the boxing ring" answer reads as ROPE.  But if you read the AD above as part of the clue, it then goes back down and continues to the next answer in the same row, an answer clued only as "-".  It continues OPE, giving the whole answer as ROPE-[A-D]OPE.

The other themed answers are DEC[AD]ENT, CAN[AD]IAN ("like seven teams in the NHL"), and TRE[AD]MILL ("where you may be going nowhere fast").

PERIDOT is the birth stone for August (and thus "most Leos").  The original birthstone for August was Sardonyx, and then peridot was added, becoming August’s primary gem. The addition of spinel, which can be found in a variety of colors, gives August babies a plethora of options!  This message brought to you by the United Gem Merchants of America.

"Noted piranha habitat" is the ORINOCO River, a 1,330 mile-long river in Venezuela and Colombia.

We've had "tarsals" before and also "tarsi" way back on September 4, 2017, but today we have the adjective TARSAL, clued as ankle-related.

I never saw the movie Coming to America, so I didn't know that Eddie Murphy's character's fictional African kingdom is ZAMUNDA.

Author EDA LeShan wrote books on how to educate children and advocated for stress-free, happy childhoods.

ORA pro nobis is a Latin phrase meaning "pray for us."

A chemical depilatory and rival of Nair is Veet, which was once named NEET and also Immac.  Why they changed it I can't say.  The marketing department just liked it better that way.

"Mujer's boys" is NINOS.  Mujer means "woman" in Spanish, which I really ought to know more of.

I knew BEZEL as the facet of gem, but it also means a ring or rim around a clock or watch face.

"Bit of news in the WSJ" is LBO, an abbreviation I have not heard before.  It stands for Leveraged Buy Out, which is the acquisition of another company using a significant amount of borrowed money.

"Ancient relative of a flute" OCARINA last appeared on October 4.

Clever clue: "Launched a teach start-up?" is POWERED ON.

Well, this was NOT SO BAD, but also not so good, time-wise.  I loved the clever theme and how neatly it was used in the grid. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossord puzzle solved: October 23, 2018

My time: 4:57, just forty seconds too slow.

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Kathy Wienberg has her mind on the humble protective sportswear known as the ATHLETIC CUP.  Four themed answers end with words that are kinds of athletic cups --- trophies, that is, not the kind you wear.  Tricked you!  Psych!

We have FLAT STANLEY (a personal favorite of mine, read to my classes several times); GEENA DAVIS (also a personal favorite of mine for other reasons), referring to the tennis award; WINONA RYDER, referring to the golf trophy; and SMALL WORLD.

There are no roads to NOME.

I have encountered but bothered to look up this word: COULEES are ravines or valleys.  This word is used in different regions of the United States to refer to different landforms.

I paused at CROSSE, "stick in a field game."  I didn't know that the net stick in lacrosse was called that.

GALENA, lead-bearing ore, was last seen on this blog on September 19, 2017.

Here's TOG as a verb again.

The word for a cleric's house, MANSE, last appeared on January 7.

Clever clues: "Band at a royal wedding" is TIARA, not a music group. "It's not free of charge" is ION.  "Slide presentation?" is AMOEBA.

Well, it wasn't a record breaking solve this time, but WE TRY.  Me and my brain, I mean.  Us.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 22, 2018

My time: 4:59.

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Alex Eaton-Salners takes us on a tour of both the dictionary and the solar system with this puzzle that explores the PLANETS, or at least five words that have them in their etymology.

MERCURIAL ("capricious"), SATURNINE ("gloomy"), VENIAL ("forgivable"), MARTIAL, and JOVIAL all fit the bill; however, venial surprised me as I was unaware of the linguistic link.

The gas station ESSO came up in this blog once before, for its slogan "Happy Motoring."  Today it's described as having a logo with a blue oval.

The gas station CITGO has appeared in the puzzle a few times.  This time the clue calls attention to its logo with a red triangle.  Perhaps red and orange?  Hard to tell.

A pupu PLATTER is a tray of American Chinese or Hawaiian food, consisting of an assortment of small meat and seafood appetizers.

Sitting Bull was a leader of the LAKOTA people, specifically the Hunkpapa people.  He had a vision that seemed to predict the victory at Little Big Horn and was shot and killed during an unjustified arrest.

"Amino acid vis-à-vis a protein, eg" is MONOMER.  This refers to a single atom or molecule which is able to join with other monomers to make new substances called polymers.  A string of amino acids is called a polypeptide chain. Polypeptide chains grow in number and begin to fold, creating helices and plated sheets. These interact with one another and keep becoming more and more complex until a protein, a polymer, is formed.

The fact that the VOLGA is the longest river in Europe has come up a few times.

Clever clue: "Clink on the drink" is BRIG.

Well, I'M ALL through now.  This was a fun puzzle.  I liked how the theme was a virtuous cycle; the more you know about it, the easier it is to fill in.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 21, 2018

My time: 20:08, pretty quick!

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Finn Vigeland warns us, "You're Going Down" on this puzzle.  Buit I showed him wrong by zipping through it in a time that isn't too bad for me.  The theme of this puzzle is that for several themed Down answers, which are well-known phrases, you must mentally add "down" at the end for the punny clue to make sense.  Thus, they are (the answer as read) "down," literally.  It's quite clever, and I was amused by many of the entries.

For example, "headline after a toddler CEO resigns, literally" is BABY STEPS [down].  Ha!  Then there's "for a message, go that way, literally" --- THERE'S THE RUB [down].  Another favorite of mine is "like the dress shirt that's just adorable, literally" --- CUTE AS A BUTTON [down].

As for the fill...

"Where cuneiform was discovered" is AMARNA, which was first discovered in this blog on October 4, 2017, as "an extensive archeological site."  But today's clue refers to the Amarna letters, a series of clay tablets, dating around 1360-1332 BC, mostly written in Akkadian cuneiform rather than that of ancient Egypt.

I feel like KIBITZ is usually spelled kibbitz. This slowed me down.

Did you know ENYA was born in County Donegal?  Specifically, the parish of Gweedore, which sounds like something from Middle-Earth.

"What starts with the spark of an idea?" is... ARSON?  What?  I don't get whatever joke that is.  I think an actual joke would be "What starts with the idea of a spark?"

Here's a word I don't know: ASHLAR, a piece of stone in masonry that has been cut and worked into a square shape.

I've heard of CARDI B, but I don't know the 2017 #1 hit "Bodak Yellow."  That's because I'm a middle-aged white music snob.

Gnocchi ALLA Romana is gnocchi that has been made of semolina.

A Manhattan neighborhood next to the Lower East side is NOLITA, which stands for "NOrth of Little ITaly."  It used to be a traditional Italian neighborhood, but has been gentrified.

So there's a TV show right now called "FBI," but apparently there was also a show titled "THE FBI" that aired on ABC from 1965 to 1974.

PART B is the Medicare provision for non-hospital expenses.  This covers things like ambulance rides, second opinions, and mental health.

I was never a Harryhead, as fans of the Harry Potter series are known.  So I had literally no idea what the seventh-year exam at Warthog's School of Magic, as I believe it is called.  It's NEWT, which stands for Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test.  The grades in descending order are O, E, A, P, D, and last T (for Troll).

A "fourth-down play" is a PUNT.   A punt is a kick performed by dropping the ball from the hands and then kicking the ball before it hits the ground. The most common use of this tactic is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes.

A Visit From the Goon Squad author Jennifer EGAN also wrote a book called Manhattan Beach.

I may have mentioned this before, but I think asking what key various works are in is terrible crossword cluing.  It's lazy and uninformative.  Antonin Dvorák's "From the New World" symphony (number 9) is in E MINOR.  Okay.  Yawn.  Here's a much more interesting fact about it: Astronaut Neil Armstrong took a tape recording of the New World Symphony along during the Apollo 11 mission, the first Moon landing, in 1969.

I know Rachel MADDOW, but I wasn't sure who her colleagues Stephen F. Hayes and Norah O'Donnell were.

I was also unsure about the use of ORBIT in anatomy, the cavity or socket of the skull in which the eye and its appendages are situated. Orbit can refer to the bony socket, or it can also be used to imply the contents.

"Do for Jon Batiste" refers to hairdo, but I didn't know who this person is.  He's a jazz bandleader from Louisiana.  He has an AFRO.

The first African-American sorority is AKA, or Alpha Kappa Alpha, founded in 1908 at Howard University in DC.

I was never a Hungerhead, as devotees of the Hunger Games series are known, so I had no idea what the land it takes place in is.  It's PANEM.  This roughly corresponds to the modern-day United States.  The name comes from the Latin for bread and circuses.

ARIES was clued as the "first sign" as recently as March 5, but I still didn't know it right off.  That's because astrology is a load of crap not worth knowing anything about.

Everyone knows ICE-T stars as a detective in Law & Order, but do they know his character is called Fin Tutuola?  They do if they watch the show.  Or if they read this blog entry from September 24, 2017.  I wrote it and I didn't remember it.

Clever clues: "Where one might be well-suited" is MEN'S SHOP.  "Hole foods?" is DONUTS.  "It may be cutting things close" is RAZOR.  "Quote from a letter" is RENT --- that one took me a long time to figure out.

This was an engaging puzzle with a delightful theme, SEZ ME.  In fact, I learned a lot.  Good stuff.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword solved: October 20, 2018

My time: 12:36.

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AHOY THERE!  Ben Gross and James Somers are responsible for this themeless, which was probably built around the modern phrase NETFLIX AND CHILL.  It's definitely a coup for them as constructors, but there are few other good bits as well, like BITE-SIZED ("easy to eat, in a way"), FLIP PHONES ("dead ringers" --- as in obsolete phones; that's a good one), and RENT-A-COP.

The Greek symbols known as PSIS have come up a couple of times, but today they're clued as "sorority letters."

Did you know Marie ANTOINETTE married at the age of fourteen?  Me neither.  They do say that it took seven more years for the marriage to be consummated, so whew.

The Israel P.M. between Netanyahu and Sharon is Ehud BARAK, who held the post from 1999 to 2001.  The one who was between Sharon and Netanyahu (the second time) was Ehud Olmert.

CODY, Wyoming, is home to the Buffalo Bill Museum.  It's an easy answer to guess, of course.  The museum itself looks like fun.   It contains five museums in one, including the Draper Natural History Museum, the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum and the Buffalo Bill Museum.

The LAC de Neuchâtel, in German the Neuenburgersee, located in Romandy, Switzerland and is the largest lake located entirely in that country.

"They're hard to beat" refers to GREAT ODDS, which sounds off to me.  I would have accepted low odds, but "great" ones?  What does that even mean?  Anyway, I had *GREATESTS at first, like the Alis and Serenas of the world, hard to beat.

On September 30, Merlot and zinfandel were offered as examples of full-bodied wine.  Today it's a SHIRAZ that is said to be full-bodied.

The Latin pronoun ILLE means "he," as in "festinare nocet, nocet et cunctatio saepe; tempore quaeque suo qui facit, ille sapit."

I'm not sure I agree that "panegyric" is a sufficient clue for EULOGY.  They are used in different contexts.

Clever clues: "Powerful ray" is MANTA.  "Advanced" is LENT.  "Bean town?" is LIMA.  "Caesarian section?" is I CAME, which isn't exactly right; this pun should be reserved for the actual section of the quote, veni.  "Relatives of tails" is TUXEDOS.  "A bitter pull to swallow?" is ALE.  I thought "joint tenant?" might be tenon (which sits in a mortise) but it's INMATE.  "Ended a phone call?" is BUTT DIALED, ha!  "Sing about?" is RAT ON.

And now, my REPORT: This was a challenging but mostly fair puzzle, with a great deal of clever and vague clues.  I enjoyed it but wish I had done a bit better.  Well, TTYL.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 19, 2018

My time: 9:19, just 25 seconds slower than the record!

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This one's a themeless, courtesy of Trenton Charlson.  It has some remarkable fill: BODY SURFS, ON VACAY, NEXT-GEN ("cutting edge"), X-RAY SPEX, PO-PO ("law enforcers, in slang"), ATE CROW ("suffered humiliation"), RIPPED ("seriously muscular") and even FRAT BRO ("alpha male, perhaps?").  Fun, fresh stuff.

Some of the clues are perfectly crafted into tempting vagueness, like "participate in quid pro quo" for LOGROLL, "tubes" for TVS, and "Chihuahua, for one" for STATE.

R&N singer NE-YO appeared on July 16, but this time it's for his hit "Let Me Love You."  Crucially, the Times crossword left off the parenthetical subtitle (Until You Learn To Love Yourself).

Know your world capitals!  Hagatna is the capital of GUAM.  Formerly Anglified as Agana and properly written Hagåtña, it is located at the mouth of the Hagåtña River on Guam's west coast.

Know your world regions!  ASHANTI is a modern-day region in Ghana, the most populated in the country, known for its gold bar and cocoa production.  It is also the name of a tribe of people, who populated an African empire from about 1670 to 1895.

In craps terminology, a roll of 4 and 6 is an EASY TEN, while two fives is a hard ten.

In computer terminology, a PC modem and a drive are examples of an IO DEVICE, which stands for input/output device, meaning any hardware that sends and receives data.

I knew Isak Dinesen was a pen name, but I couldn't remember her real name, KAREN Blixen.

I'm so, so tired of clued about who is an AFC East team and who is an AFC North team and all that crap.  I really don't care.  Why not give some interesting trivia about a team instead?

"Notable ring bearer" is SMEAGOL, whom we know better as Gollum.

The official birds of Quebec are SNOWY OWLS.  Unlike other owls, the snowy owl isn’t exclusively nocturnal. It hunts both day and night, surviving mainly on lemmings. Quebec decided to select the snowy owl as a symbol of the province’s support for wildlife protection.

It's quadruple-platinum 2001 album J.LO, once again, last heard from on December 29, 2017.

Eric BANA was in Munich, as shown on April 17.

Clever clues: "Objective worked toward during crunch time?" I thought for a brief second might be *SWALLOW but it's SIXPACK, which is great.  "Cliff notes?" is YODEL.  "Pound, e.g." is POET (and not, say, coin).  "Nip in the end" is EDGE, as in edge out. 

What a fine, fun puzzle!  Interesting fill and some amusing clues.  Trenton Charlston deserves some PATS on the back.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 18, 2018

My time: 18:41, one minute slower than average.

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I totally whiffed this one by Erik Agard.  Just a lot of second-guessing and hesitation on my part.  And some iffy cluing, in my opinion.  Also, I have strep throat.  So my mind is a bit fuzzy.

The puzzle's theme is not presented in a way to grab your attention.  It centers on the "so-called black national anthem," which is "LIFT EVERY VOICE [and sing]," written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson in 1900 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1905.

Before the solver gets to that answer, however, he or she finds three somewhat difficult themed clues.  These are "said something in response almost immediately" (DIDN'T MISS A BEAT); "noble domain" (BARONETCY); "volcano's spew" (HOT LAVA --- I don't think of that as spew), and German composer ENGELBERT Humperdinck.  These themed answers show four "lifted" voice types: BASS, TENOR, ALTO, and TREBLE, respectively.

Okay then.

Things started off wrong when I put *NAE-NAE for "American dance move that, for whatever reason, is illegal in Saudi Arabia."  It's THE DAB.

For "twenty under 30" I put *SET, as in like the set of twenty most powerful under 30, etc.  This answer might have made sense if there were an "e.g." at the end of the clue.  But of course, it's actually referring to math.  TEN.

I also got stuck on "Umbrella" singer Rihanna's nickname, RIRI.  I'm not on a nickname basis with Ms. Fenty.

I'm no opera maven.  The soprano in Don Giovanni by Mozart is Donna ELVIRA, a Spanish lady abandoned by the title character.

"Middle of time?" was the clue I got very last.  It's COLON.  That's not clever or wordplay.  It's just kind of dumb.  In the same vein, "8. Abbr." is... AUG??  Sort of.

Further, I stupidly misread a question as "Caribbean region" and not "Caribbean religion with roots in Africa," which is of course SANTERIA, but that's not a region, so I couldn't figure it out!

The RICE Owls have not some up in the crossword before, but I did mention them as being the University of Houston Cougars' archenemies on September 19.

And here's fauxlebrity BECCA Kufrin, who was on "The Bachelorette" once!  Couldn't Asgard have picked someone with a shred of importance or relevance for the name Becca?

RECODE.net is a tech and economic news website that seems like it might be interesting.

I had no idea we had our very own monster, "South Bay" BESSIE, swimming around Lake Erie! (Spoiler: it's not real.)

Now that we know ADELE was born in Tottenham, what do we do?  What a boring clue.

Never heard of the Grey Cup, which is apparently a trophy and the final game for the CFL, or Canadian Football League.  The Toronto Argonauts have the most Grey Cup wins (17) since its introduction in 1909, while the Edmonton Eskimos have the most Grey Cup wins (11) since the creation of the professional CFL in 1958.  These Canucks have awesome team names.  I particularly like the Ottawa Redblacks and the Hamilton Tiger-cats, which also sounds like a turn of the century dance or cocktail.

"Let, maybe" is a very tough clue for NET BALL.

The California MENLO Park came up on May 18

Chuck Todd, newsman and our old crossword buddy!

Whew!  That's a lot of recapping.  This took a A TON of time.  I'd count this one as a near-LOSS.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 17, 2018

My time: 6:28, so close to the record!

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Patrick Blindauer and Tony Orbach serves up a delicious (albeit repetitive) breakfast in this puzzle.  At the top is a PAT of butter, and every three rows going down to the bottom there is another themed clue.  These are PANCAKE ("kind of makeup"), PANCAKE ("flatten"), and PANCAKE ("breakfast food item"), and finally under this stack is a PLATE.

It's a nice idea, but in execution it's rather boring.  I think that PAT and PLATE should have been clued as things unrelated to food (for example, "___ Morita" and "tectonic _____").

On the sides, running down, are AUNT JEMIMA and HUNGRY JACK.

For "welds" I misread "wields" for far too long and so had a hard time getting JOINS.

The Enemy Below is a 1957 film.  Set in the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II, two equally able captains on opposing sides square off in a life-and-death game of tactical maneuvering. American Capt. Murrell (Robert Mitchum) helms the destroyer USS Haynes, while his Nazi counterpart, Von Stolberg (Curt Jurgens), commands a German U-BOAT.

A mama lobster is called a HEN, eh?  And a male is called a cock!

UCLA has come up a lot in this puzzle, but this is the first time we've heard that its colors are gold and "True Blue."  Interestingly, there is an academics and administrative color, UCLA Blue (and UCLA Gold), that is not used by the athletic department.

"She's a Lady" is a 1971 Tom Jones song that I'm not familiar with.

The UTE are a Native American people who live around the Great Basin.  The Great Basin is the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America. It spans nearly all of Nevada, much of Oregon and Utah, and portions of California, Idaho, and Wyoming.

Here's a totally new word to me, Mister Vocabulary himself: SNELL, which has many meanings but the one germane here is "a short length of line used to attack a hook to a fishing line."  So there is a SNELL knot, by extension.

Broccoli RABE was examined on October 12, 2017.

"Carrier to Oslo" SAS was explored on May 30.

In other transport news, the ACELA, a train from Boston to Washington, came up on January 17.
The AAA baseball league rears its cute little head again, this time naming the Durham Bulls (showcased on September 2) and the Buffalo Bisons.  They missed a chance to call themselves the Buffalo Buffaloes.

Clever clue: "kitchen shortening?" is TSP.

Rather flat (heh) theme, no particularly clever clues, not very interesting fill.  I have to SAY IT: I give this puzzle a C+ maybe.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 16, 2018

My time: 6:02.

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Ed Sessa, whose name has appeared on this blog only once before, channels Frank Sinatra and tells us THAT'S LIFE!  What is Life?  Well, a BOARD GAME, BREAKFAST CEREAL, and PICTURE MAGAZINE.

It sure is.

"CARA Mia" (Italian for "My Darling," and Spanish for "My Face"), a song written in 1954, was a #4 hit for Jay and the Americans in 1965.

I watched a fair amount of "Bewitched" in syndication as a kid, but I had forgotten ENDORA, Samantha's mother (and thus Darrin's battleaxe mother-in-law).  Her chronology is... undefined.

The REO is a car that I know of (as in the famous REO Speed Wagon), but I had not heard of its contemporary auto-making rivals, Essex and the wonderfully named Hupmobile.

I guess I just wasn't sure enough that RHO is shaped like a P.

We all know who NERO was, but I am not fully up on the details of the Year of Four Emperors.  This was 69 AD.  The suicide of the emperor Nero in 68 was followed by a brief period of civil war, the first Roman civil war since Mark Antony's death in 30 BC. Between June of 68 and December of 69 the emperors Galba, Otho, and Vitellius successively rose and fell.  The period ended upon the July 69 accession of Vespasian, who founded the Flavian dynasty.

OTOE is a tribe that comes up a great deal in this puzzle, but today is clued as "Siouan people."

MELDS in canasta was covered on January 11.

That's all she wrote.  A quick quiz with a fun theme and no particularly clever, vague, or amusing clues.  TANKS for the Tuesday treat, Ed Sessa!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 15, 2018

My time: 4:13.

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Amanda Chung and Karl Ni team up once again to prove that they are still YOUNG / AT HEART with this playful puzzle.  In five themed answers, various words for a young animal are found in the center.

INCUBUS hides cub, AKITA shelters kit (I'm not a fan of this answer being used for the theme because it's another animal, but whatever), OPTICAL FIBER holds calf, ARE YOU KIDDING ME has kid, and JOHN COLTRANE, of course, contains a colt in the middle.

The answer to "brandy fruit" is APRICOT, which I don't think of when I think about brandy.  Which isn't all that often, let's be honest.  But most things that are billed as apricot brandies are actually flavored liqueurs.

"Perfume, as in a religious ceremony" is the verb CENSE, which to me seems a bit outré for a Monday.

Know your state symbols?  The state tree of Massachusetts is the ELM TREE.  Specifically, the American elm, Ulmus americana.

IDA is a very common crossword name, but this one hasn't been used before: IDA B. Wells, an African American suffragist, journalist, abolitionist, and feminist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the 1890s.  A figure from American history well worth knowing, and certainly more deserving of a statue in a southern city square than those treasonous terrorists who declared war on us.

I knew this word once but had long forgotten it: DEVA, a term for a divinity in Hindu religion, or just for the divine.  Shiva is a deva, for example.

Clever clue: "Stand around the mall?" is KIOSK.

And that's it!  A fun, quick puzzle, one with which I have no quibble.  A real ACE among puzzles.  I am EAGER to start in on Tuesday!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 14, 2018

My time: 20:08.

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Ross Trudeau rolled the dice that this puzzle, titled "Game Hunting," would hit the spot, but it's a mixed bag.  He takes a few standard phrases that happen to have game titles in them and clue them as if that word was actually the game name.

For example, "we can't play that game --- I can't reach it on our shelf!"  That's THE RISK IS TOO HIGH.  Funny!  That's a good one.  I also like SORRY, NOT SORRY ("that game is off the table").

So why is the execution of the theme as a whole a mixed bag?  For one thing, the title; no one is hunting for games here.  They're picking one.  I get the pun, but it doesn't apply.  Second, some of the clues and answers are very clunkily worded.  "I'm begging you, let's not play that game!" is PLEASE DON'T GO.  Go here is the name of a game.  No one would say, "please don't chess!"  That's stupid.   Similarly, I HAVEN'T A CLUE.  People don't generally put the indefinite article in front of game names.  Also, "I finally decided!  I'm..." is ASKING FOR TROUBLE.  That's a poor clue that doesn't fit the rest of the theme.  It should be "Please, let's play that game."

Anyway, the rest...

Birthright Israel is a non-profit educational organization that sponsors free ten-day heritage trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage, aged 18–32, so their trips usually rely on EL AL.

I know the noun plural togs but am not familiar with TOG as a verb, to dress up.

For "turning point in history" I put *ONE A.D. but it's, somewhat bafflingly, ONE B.C.

"What's plucked in 'she loves me, she loves me not'" is COROLLA.  I know what that is, but I disagree.  Petals are plucked, one by one.  This clue could read "what's removed after a completed round of 'she loves me...'"

A SADDLE JOINT is a synovial joint (one surrounded by a membrane) where one of the bones forming the joint is shaped like a saddle with the other bone resting on it like a rider on a horse.  An example is the thumb.

"Praise for a picador" is OLES.  I didn't expect the plural.  See also the stupid UNISONS later on.

We all know Georgia O'Keeffe, but we aren't familiar with her 1926 work, Black IRIS III.

The Seven Sisters was a name given to seven liberal arts colleges in the Northeastern United States that are historically women's colleges. Five of the seven institutions continue to offer all-female undergraduate programs: Barnard College, Bryn Mawr College, Mount Holyoke College, the largest member (with a whopping 2500 students) SMITH College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and Wellesley College. Of the other two, Vassar College has been co-educational since 1969, and Radcliffe College was involved with Harvard and then dissolved in 1999.

I had no idea that the IBIS was, according to legend, one of the first birds released by Noah after the flood.  I knew about the dove.  I find almost no information about this online, but this article states: According to local legend in the Birecik region of Şanlıurfa, the Northern Bald Ibis was one of the first birds that Noah released from the Ark and is for this reason seen as a symbol of fertility.

"Penalties for illegal bowls in cricket" is NO BALLS, which could have been clued in so many interesting ways!  I don't know rule one about cricket.  A no-ball results in one run scored for the batting team.

"Supervillain in DC comics" is ULTRAMAN.  Being a comics reader of many decades, I know exactly who this is, unlike a certain pompous crossworld solver online who actually "teaches comics" but hadn't heard of Iceman.  Still, it's extremely abstruse for the New York Times.

Apparently, in the world of Scotch, more smoky means PEATIER.

And a brand new concept to me: CO-MAKER, a guarantor of a loan.  My lawyer wife had heard of it though!

For "blandishment" is confidently put *FLATTERY which messed me up because it's CAJOLERY.  Also, for "actor's honor, informally" I put *NOD (as in Oscar nod) but it's NOM.

We learned that UNIX was developed at Bell Labs on February 1.

ETHANE was also clued as "natural gas component" on May 27.

An INT (interception) might result in a defensive TD, as shown on April 25.

The largest active Antarctic volcano, Mt. EREBUS, was the basis for an entire theme back on October 26, 2017.

Old vacuum tube TRIODE came to light on August 5.

Clever clues: "Bead source" is PORE. "Kind of number not seen much nowadays" is FAX.  "Things needed in passing?" is YEAS.  "Suspect statements?" is ALIBIS.

In summary, this puzzle had good bits and bad bits, mostly the theme itself.  I enjoyed GENDER FLUIDITY, MERE MORTALS, MONOMANIA, and NEED A RIDE.  It could definitely have used an editor, but LIFE'S TOO SHORT to complain.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 13, 2018

My time: 15:10, ten minutes faster than average.

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Kevin G. Der is responsible for this themeless Saturday.  It has a lot of interesting fill, a variety of letters, and solid cluing.  I give it an A+, would solve again.

I think I saw Rogue One (although frankly all the Star Wars movies are kind of blurring together for me now), but had no guesses as to the "film whose climax is on the planet Scarif."  Scarif is a tropical planet that was created for the film.  The heroes try to find the Death Star plans hidden in a vault on the planet.

Soccer star ALI Krieger is a right back who played with the US National team as well as lots of league teams.  And she's a great role model!

I saw The Big Sick, a clever and cute film, but I needed crossfill help to write out the lead actress' name, ZOE KAZAN.

Composer Arcangelo CORELLI was a 17th century Italian violinist.  He is best known for his concerti grossi.  Here he is clued as having "inspired a set of Rachmaninoff variations."  This refers to Variations on a Theme of Corelli, based on "La Folia," which was not in fact composed by Corelli, but was used by him in 1700 as the basis for 23 variations in his Sonata for violin and continuo.

I had a hard time remembering the word ISOPOD, an order in which the pill bug and wood louse belong.  The largest one is the Bathynomus.

The Nissan MURANO is a crossover SUV.  It is named after Murano, a lagoon city near Venice, famous for its glass making.

Did you know that a volleyball team is six people?  A SEXTET, if you will?

"Title for Princess Anne beginning in 1982" is AUNT.  The children of Queen Elizabeth II are Anne, Charles, Andrew, and Edward.  In 1982, Prince William was born to Charles and Lady Di, making Anne and AUNT for the first time.  Elizabeth's first two grandchildren were born to Anne herself, making all the other uncles first.

"Big Four workers, for short" is CPAS.  I thought the Big Four were the giant American car companies, but it turns out they're accounting firms: Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

I forgot that OMEGA in the lowercase resembles a w.

PIMAS are members of a Native American tribe originally active around Arizona and Sonora.  The Pima tribe were a friendly, peaceful people who were organized into two social groups called the Red Ants and the White Ants. The Pimas were highly competent farmers who used using irrigation methods to cultivate crops of corn, squash, pumpkins, kidney beans, tobacco, and cotton. Unlike in other Native Indian tribes, the men did the farming and wove cotton on looms.

"Global currency market with a portmanteau name" is FOREX.  A blend of foreign and exchange, it is the market in which currencies are traded. The forex market is the largest, most liquid market in the world, with average traded values that can be trillions of dollars per day. It includes all of the currencies in the world.

Remember ENOS, Adam's grandson, from September 17, 2018?  Here he's clued as "ancestor of Methuselah."

Clever clues: "They might be made to reconcile" is AMENDS.  "Means of drawing up solutions" is PIPETS, though I would have preferred the more common spelling.  "Not quite blow" is SEETHE.  "leaning column?" is OP-ED PIECE.  "Leaves work?" is TEA TASTER.  "Cartoonist's indicator of nodding" is ZEES.  "Diet in the Mideast" is KNESSET, which a bilingual pun!

Great puzzle!  I didn't solve it ALL AT ONCE, but handled everything it DISHED OUT.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 12, 2018

My time: 21:34, which is three minutes slower than the average

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Ugh, this was super hard for me.  A combination of some very long fill, tough clues, at least one ridiculous neologism, and three sections of self-contained squares combined to make this a real challenge.  Erik Agard and Bruce Haight probably thought they were inspired with this one, but I say, WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA trying to make it hard for me like that?

Anyway, the black squares suggest a LIGHT BULB, which is spelled out at the base.  It's really a charming and fun theme, but I didn't enjoy trying to suss out the rest.

For "bathroom or beach supply" I confidently put *TOWELS but it's LOTION, which is better.  For "___ milk" naturally I put *SOY, but it's OAT --- what?  For "takes off" I put *REDUCES but it's DEDUCTS, which slowed me down.  And finally, I was sure "___" time was *TEA but it's actually TEE.  Golfing, not a nice cuppa!

I didn't know Roger EBERT wrote a book called Awake in the Dark, but it's a clever title once you realize why it fits.

Not in my wheelhouse: Enid BAGNOLD, who wrote National Velvet, the story of a little girl who rides her horse in a steeplechase.

JUBA is the capital of the newest addition to our global family, South Sudan.

The British county ESSEX was in the puzzle on March 27 as the home of Southend-on-Sea.  Today it's Hertfordshire neighbor.

Isn't ESPN Deportes a rather unfortunate name for our LATINO friends, given the current political climate?

ECHO BOOMERSMillennials who espouse Boomer values like buying things, but also are unlike their forebears in various other ways given the shrinking world that technology and a high standard of life bring??

"Hope" and "Friendship" are STATE MOTTOS.  "Friendship" I knew; "Hope" is Rhode Island's.  The seal of RI depicts an anchor; the seal's words and emblems were likely inspired by the biblical phrase "hope we have as an anchor of the soul," found in Hebrews, Verse 6:18-19.

We've all heard of MEGADETH, but we aren't connoisseurs of their discography.  Countdown to Extinction is their fifth album, released in 1992.

"Group running together" is SLATE.  What does that mean?

I've never heard of TED Baker, a British clothing retailer.

AVA DuVernay is a director who is in the puzzle almost as much as Nas.

Here comes the word GAM again, as explained on September 15, 2017.

Jean RHYS and her novel were explored on August 28.

Clever clues: "Provider of a traveler's check" is TSA.  "Tender" is very vague cluing for BID.  "Italian cardinal" is UNO.

Was this puzzle AS EASY AS ABC?  No, it wasn't.  THAT IS TO SAY, I had a hard time with it.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 11, 2018

My time: 10:59.

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Johanna Fenimore and Jeff Chen support breast cancer awareness with this puzzle by celebrating NO BRA DAY (which is October 13, as we learned on September 6 of this year, so this puzzle is a little early).

Six answers contain the letter string B-R-A, which must be mentally removed in order to make sense of the clue. For example we have BRAIDING, which is clued as "picking out of a lineup, e.g."  Or BRAVERY, which is clued as "extremely."  The clue that finally made the theme clear to me was, pretty much in conjunction with the capper, LAB RATS for "upper body muscles, for short."

The IONIAN Sea lies between Greece and Sicily.

I had forgotten that "Lamb of literature" (Charles Lamb) used the pen name ELIA.

ETTA James sings "At last, my love has come along" in her song "At Last."

"I'm Down" is SIDE B of the Beatles single "Help!"  I'm not sure if I've ever heard that song.

"Letters for college applicants" is ETS.  This is an independent testing service that administers the SAT, AP exams, and other programs.

Console Wars is a 2014 book that follows a new CEO of video game company SEGA of America, and details the history of the fierce business competition between Sega and Nintendo throughout the 1990s as well as the internal conflicts that took place between Sega of America and Sega of Japan.

Know those state flowers!  VIOLETS are the state flowers of Rhode Island, Illinois, and New Jersey.
Wisconsin's is the wood violet.

Author James AGEE and his autobiographical novel A Death in the Family came up on November 13, 2017.

The Camaro IROC has appeared a few times, but on September 7, 2017, I noted that it is named after the International Race of Champions. 

Clever cues: "Ones making passing judgments, for short?" is QBS.  "Home pages?" is LEASE.  "Result of imperfect service" is LET.  "Application for Mr. Universe contest?" is OIL.

Well, CREDIT where it's due: this was a fine puzzle, with an amusing and well-executed theme, if not very timely.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 10, 2018

My time: 12:56, nearly three minutes slower than this day's average.

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Alex Eaton-Salners must have been humming when he made this puzzle.  I did not find it as easy as A-B-C, but it focuses on the ALPHABET song.  Four themed phrases start with words that correspond to scale notes, which happen to be the first notes of the sung song (which is also "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," by the way).

DODO BIRD ("onetime resident of Mauritius," a rather oblique clue for this answer), SO-SO REVIEWS, LA-LA LAND (the movie that was incorrectly announced as Best Picture winner in 2017, until it was revealed that Moonlight was the actual winner), and SO HELP ME GOD ("swear words?") are the four important answers here.  SO you we get do do, so so, la la so.  A B, C D, E F G.  Ta-da!

I correctly guessed BRAE for "highlands hillside" early on, but I don't think I could have told you what it means without any other context.

I never knew RIHANNA's first name is Robyn!  He last name is Fenty. Her middle name is Arabic and means "sweet basil."

Senator Daniel INOUYE has a name that is hard to spell just right.

We've all heard of EDSELS, but I didn't know that they manufactured a make called Corsair.  It had a short-lived existence, from 1958-59.

Bob GRIESE was a quarterback who played for the Dolphins and won two Superbowls, in 1972 and '73.

Everyone is talking about JODIE Whittaker, the new Dr. Who, but I kept thinking her name was Sophie or *SOFIE or something.

HILLEL is an international Jewish campus group.  Their mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.

"Volcanic discharge" is ASH PLUME, which is apparently something volcanologists say.

I am not a video gamer so I had to guess at KOOPA Troopa, which it turns out is not a specific Mario foe but rather the entire "race"(?) of little turtles he is always thumping and kicking around.

"Diamond VIPs" is GMS, which means General Managers.  I'm so removed from sports lore and concern that this never occured to me as an answer.

"Some stoves" is so brief and laconic that I had a very hard time figuring out it was a brand that was wanted.  It's AMANAS, which has come up so often that I really ought to know it by now.

Hall of Fame inventor Elisha OTIS rose to prominence on September 11 of this year.

Clever clues: "Podded plants" is OKRAS.  "Canal zone?" is EAR.  "How you can count up to five" is ON ONE HAND.

I'm not sure why this took me so long.  Yes, it was troublesome IN SPOTS, but there wasn't too much new information.  It also had some words that I know but are outside my usual go-to wheelhouse, like DAYBED and IMAGINEER.  But in the end, I just wasn't running at 100% brainpower, I guess.  Like, I stewed over "alternative to paper" for too long, not realizing it was a simple reference to "PLASTIC or paper?"  I kept thinking, what do you write on besides paper?  Papyrus?  A tablet??

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 9, 2018

My time: 6:25.

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It took the team of Natan Last, Andy Kravis and the JASA Crossword Class to construct this puzzle.  The depth, breadth, and length of their construction acumen is admirable.  In this one, the 2016 Best Picture nominee HIDDEN FIGURES is celebrated.  How?  By hiding "figures," or three-dimensional shapes, inside themed phrases.

"Coined phrase?" (ha, ha) is E PLURIBUS UNUM, in which you can find prism.  Linus' SECURITY BLANKET, which covers up a cube.  And NO SURPRISE THERE contains a sphere.

Mahershala ALI was the 2016 Best Supporting Actor for his role as Juan in Moonlight, but I know him best as Cottonmouth in "Luke Cage."

Another actor whose name I don't know is SKYLAR Astin, yet another in a long line of celebrities with potentially interchangeable first and last names.  He was in Pitch Perfect and Wreck-It Ralph.

For "island east of Lanai" I guessed *OAHU because I don't know anything about geography.  It's MAUI.  Oahu is to the northwest.  MAUI is directly east.  It goes Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molkokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, Hawaii. 

Warren SPAHN was a Cy Young award-winning pitcher, mostly with the (Boston, then Milwaukee) Braves.

Yankee Years memoirist and longtime Yankee manager Joe TORRE came up on January 26, and I remembered!

"Tennis do-over" LET was clued as "court do-over" on September 9 of this year, and as when the ball hits the net on November 29, 2017.

Clever clues: "Website with a lot of home pages?' is AIR BNB.  "It can be greased" is PALM (I put *POLE).  "Remote location?" is TV ROOM.  "It may wind up at the side of a house" is HOSE.

This didn't take too much time.  It was clever and fun.  That's the DEALIO.  Uh, hep cat daddy-o.  Well, CHEERIO.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 8, 2018

My time: 4:13, near the record!

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Today's puzzle comes to us courtesy of Jacob Stulberg, whose hands must have positively flown across the drawing board as he constructed the grid.  The theme centers on the AIRPORT, or rather where to find your flight.  Four themed answers narrow down where you might be found if you have a ticket: BATTERY TERMINAL, GOLDEN GATE, CANNERY ROW ("Steinbeck novel set in Monterrey"), and TAKING A BACK SEAT.  There!  Now stow your luggage in the overhead bin, relax, recline back a quarter of an inch, and try to believe in the Bernoulli principle.

I filled the grid before I'd really digested the theme, but the capper in the middle is a help for those who might have been more stuck than I was this time.

Speaking of terminals, remember the handy mnemonic for anodes and cathodes.

"Land for O'Connor or O'Casey" is ERIN.  O'Connor could be Sinead, but who's O'Casey?  Maybe this socialist playwright?

Did you know ADELE had a song called "Water Under the Bridge"?  I didn't!  It's from her album 25.

OVID wrote Ars Amatoria, or "The Art of Love."  Not a Roman Kama Sutra, It teaches basic gentlemanly male and female relationship skills and techniques.  The first two books, aimed at men, contain sections which cover such topics as "not forgetting her birthday," "letting her miss you --- but not for long" and "not asking about her age'. The third gives similar advice to women, sample themes include: "making up, but in private," "being wary of false lovers' and "trying young and older lovers'. Hot stuff!

I've heard a time or two that John TYLER, that horny old lecher, was known as His Accidency.  This is because he was the first to assume the office of the presidency after the death of his predecessor (William Henry Harrison, the "One-Monther").

In the Bible, Jacob's first wife was LEAH, before he married Rachel.  He was tricked, after working for their father for seven years, into marrying the older girl, whom he didn't want (she squinted).  But he "fulfilled her week" (made sure she doesn't feel rejected?) and then put in another seven years to get the girl he wanted.

Everyone's heard of LIMP BIZKIT, but do they know that they have a seven-time platinum album called Significant Other?  No, and they don't care.  Break stuff!

The Fightin' ILLINI ("Urbana-Champaign students") sure come up a lot.

Fashion maven Geoffrey BEENE last appeared on July 8.

Clever clues: "Something up one's sleeve?" is ELBOW.  "Make a scene?" is ACT.

This was a TIPTOP puzzle.  And I came so close to the record!  RATS.  This one was a WEE bit obscure for a Monday, in my book.  Ovid?  The Bible?  American history trivia?  That's more Wednesday stuff, isn't it?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 7, 2018

My time: 26:10.

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This one was a doozy!  Tom McCoy instructs us to "Mind the Gap," because several key phrases containing words that mean something like "interrupt" are in fact interrupted by an extra, circled letter.  The best part is that the other word is interrupted, making the whole clue very meta, defining itself, almost.

So, for example, "another nickname for Old Abe... or a description of the circled letter?" reads as R(S)AIL SPLITTER.  The circled letter, S, "splits" rail.  We also have OUT(Q)ER SPACE, where the Q fills in a space in outer.  Nest is RO(U)OM DIVIDER, NA(A)SAL CAVITY, and so on to the last answer, GRAN(G)D OPENING.  The circled letters, read together, spell square peg.  Because they don't fit!  Now that's some clever puzzle making.  That's the real McCoy!

On to the fill!

I don't watch modern network TV, so I didn't know that "FBI" is a show now.  It started this year, and was created by "Law & Order" GURU Dick Wolf.

There is a caramel candy called a SLO-poke.  I don't think they sell them in my neck of the woods.  Or my in my chronological era.  The original Slo Poke Caramel Pop was first introduced in 1926 by the Holloway Candy Company.

"Part of an auto garage's business" is TOWAGE, not *TOWING.  Ugh.  No one says TOWAGE. This old semi-words make me all AGLARE.

Spidey villain DOC OCK doesn't look as good written out with no spaces.

In baseball terms, a "singleton" means a SOLO HOMER.  That means that Marge is out with the kids for the night.  No, actually it's a home run hit with no one on base.

ERNST Mach was was an Austrian physicist and philosopher, noted for his contributions to physics such as his study of shock waves.

Giuseppe Verdi wrote the 1859 opera Un ballo in maschera, or A Masked Ball.  The plot concerns the assassination in 1792 of King Gustav III of Sweden who was killed as the result of a political conspiracy against him. He was shot while attending a masked ball and died of his wounds thirteen days later.  But I digress.  In the opera, there is an aria called "ERI tu" ("it was you"), sung by Renato as he forgives his wife.

"Like carbon 12, but not carbon 14" is STABLE.  Carbon-12 is of particular importance in its use as the standard from which atomic masses of all nuclides are measured.  Carbon-14's presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method because of its unstable nature.

The eyeball layer SCLERA was uncovered on June 1.

Clever clues: "Venus, but not Serena" is PLANET.  "A lid usually covers it at night" is IRIS.  "Is on the up and up?" is ASCENDS.  "Experts in the field?" is UMPS.  "Visits a school, maybe" is SCUBAS.  "X isn't really one" is BRAND.

This one took a long while because of the inserted letters!  A challenge --- indeed a real bear --- but OSO fun.  In short, AARGH! but also NEATO.  Now I PLAN TO rest until Monday.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 6, 2018

My time: 16:08.

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Lewis Dean Hyatt can be forgiving for having an inflated sense of SELF-IMPORTANCE after creating this puzzle, with what must have been quite a LABOR INTENSIVE effort.  Look at this fill: OREO THIN, THAT'S THE SPIRIT, EVIL INTENTIONS, EXCAVATES, and more.

The first comedian to appear on the cover of "Time" was Mort SAHL in 1960.  Sahl pioneered a style of social satire which pokes fun at political and current event topics using improvised monologues and only a newspaper as a prop.

The singer with the 2017 #1 R&B album is... SZA??  What the hell is that?  I put *SIA at first.  I'm so out of touch, it's a wonder I have fingers.

For "time for me to shine," I had *I'M UP, but it's I'M ON.  For "buncha" I put *LOTSA but it's LOTTA.

The largest sesamoid bone in the body is the KNEECAP.  What the hell is a sesamoid bone?  It is a bone embedded within a tendon or a muscle.  The name is is derived from the Latin word sesamum ("sesame seed"), due to the small size of most sesamoids.

ARCO has come up before as a gas station, but today it's a musical term meaning the player should return to bowing after playing pizzicato.

I knew that mahi-mahi is also called dolphinfish and other names, but I forgot about DORADO.

Here's a new thing for me.  I thought HEARTS AND MINDS was a phrase dating from the Iraq War, but it turns out it was appropriated (unwisely, perhaps) from a quote by LBJ on the Vietnam War.  There was a 1974 documentary on the Vietnam War bearing this title.

"Galvanized, chemically" is ZINCED.  That looks so odd I was sure it was wrong.

I also had misgivings about SLICED AND DICED for "broke down for careful analysis."  That is one of the dictionary definitions, but I have always thought of it as just hacking something up, even if figuratively, but without regard to figuring it out.

For "assembly line pioneer" I put *FORD but it's our old sparring buddy, Ransom Eli OLDS.

Lionel Ritchie has a song called "You ARE."  Never heard of it.  It's pretty glossy AOR stuff.

DREXEL University, near Penn, came up on April 9, but I forgot all about it.

Clever clues: "Make rent" is TATTER.  "R.E.M. show?" is DREAM.  "It made a big splash in 2001" is MIR.  "What isn't legal for copying" is LTR --- I guess letter size isn't legal size.  That's not so much clever as it is obscure.  "Like some pans" is SCATHING.

I really enjoyed this one!  Great clues, impressive fill, not too difficult.  The chance to challenge myself with quality crosswords like these is what DRIVES me onward.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 5, 2018

My time: 10:31, very speedy!

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Robyn Weintraub is responsible for this themeless Friday.  AND WE'RE OFF, with a fun meta clue to start ("exclamation appropriate for 1 Across").  I didn't SET A RECORD today, but I'm proud of my effort.   Great fill, including the modern and unusual entries like OPEN-SOURCE, FLASH MOB, PERIWINKLE, MIND MELD, and COLD ONE ("brewski").

"Place for a shrine" is APSE, like a recessed niche in architecture.  Usually they have domed roofs or have an archway entrance.  Sometimes I forget that this isn't the nave, or the central part of a church, rectangular with aisles.

For "perfumery measure" I put *GRAMS but it's DRAMS.  A dram in perfumery, unlike in the alcohol business, is about 1/8 of an ounce.

The cheese Pecorino Romano, if genuine, comes from sheep, specifically a EWE.

Roger TANEY (pronounced Tawny) was the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 1836 to 1864. He delivered the majority opinion in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case, that ruled, among other things, that African Americans could not be considered citizens, whether free or slave.  The reasoning was that since they were considered inferior at the time the United States Constitution was drafted, they could not ex post facto be granted citizenship.

The ankle bone is called the talus, part of the tarsus group which has appeared a few times.  The plural of talus is TALI.

"Family Ties" mom ELYSE Keaton last appeared on March 27.

I learned that Verizon acquired AOL in 2015 on April 12.

Clever clues: "Series finale" is ET AL.  "You might use it in dressing" is STALE BREAD.  "Props for a Broadway play?" is TONY.   "VIP section?" is PERSON --- that word is a section of the abbreviation.  "King maker" is SERTA --- now that's a funny one.  "Military leader known for being chicken?" is GENERAL TSO. "Honey bunch?" is WORKER BEES.  "One who's got game... but shouldn't" is POACHER.  "Like a kid in a candy store, e.g." is CLICHE.

This was a terrific puzzle.  I loved the funny clues and the fresh fill.  There was nothing in it to ENRAGE the solver, even a SCHMO like me.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 4, 2018

My time: 9:39, quite good!

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Joon Pahk served up this fun and bubbly puzzle, which makes a pun off the part of some cocktails SODA MIXER (the clue reads "ingredient in some cocktails," and that's not quite right in my opinion; the mixer part is a description, not part of an ingredient).

Anyway, this indicates that the last word in five themed clues are anagrams (mixes) of SODA brands.  "It might pop out of a kid's mouth" is BUBBLE GUM (for Mug root beer).  JUDAS PRIEST is a mix of Sprite.  GAS PIPES mixes up Pepsi.  The pun clue "swinger's club" is BASEBALL BAT, for Tab.

I did not know MARC ECKO, designer whose brand features a rhinoceros logo.  Although I think I've leafed through his youth culture magazine, Complex.  Anyway, that's a mixer of Coke.

I couldn't quite come up with John NANCE Garner, US Vice President from 1933-41.  I initially hazarded the guess *VANCE.  More importantly, though, his nickname was "Cactus Jack."

Owner of a name that looks as though it cannot possibly be anything other than a typo, Dave STIEB is a MLB seven-time All-Star, who pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He won the second-highest total of games by a pitcher in the 1980s.

The yacht race known as the America's Cup is the world's oldest international sporting trophy.  The eponymous trophy, also known as the Auld Mug, is named after the AMERICA, the yacht that won it in 1851.  The cup was originally known as the One Hundred Sovereign Cup.

NINA Dobrev is a Bulgarian-born actress who was in the TV shows "The Vampire Diaries" and "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

I remembered that a studio remade the movie ANNIE (in 2014), but I had forgotten the titular character's actor's name: Quvenzhané Wallis.  Whew!  That's a mouthful.

The parable of the Prodigal Son is found in LUKE 15.

"Evil, in Laval" is MAL.  Laval is the third largest city in Quebec.

BASIL is an herb that can come in sweet and holy varieties.  Sweet basil is perhaps the most popular and widely used culinary herb. It grows 12-18 inches tall and foliage color can range from green to purple. Holy basil is a so-called "sacred" herb in some Eastern cultures that self-proclaimed nutritionists often tout as a panacea.  Chefs might call it hot basil.

I'm ashamed to say I already forgot TIM Kaine, senator of Virginia.  I put *TED!

Did you know that a soccer striker is usually number NINE?  I had no idea.

The primitive wind instrument OCARINA came up on August 18.

Clever clues: "Going rates?" is TOLLS.  "Long nap?" is SHAG.   "Phone tapping targets?" is ICONS.  "High Sierra runner" is MAC.  "Server load?" is TRAY.

Whoo, that's a big GLUT of new material.  Time for my EXIT!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: October 3, 2018

My time: 6:52.

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Paul Coulter got his inspiration for this puzzle from both the stars and Greek myth.  CASSIOPEIA was a vain queen of ETHIOPIA, who boasted that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs, THE NEREIDS.  For this, POSEIDON banished her to the sky (some say chained to a chair, as her daughter was chained and slated to be sacrificed to a sea monster), where we see her constellation today.

As if that weren't enough, the X's scattered throughout the puzzle depict the stars that make up her constellation.

"Presidential perk until 1977" is YACHT.  I am stunned to learn that there was a Sea Force One, the U.S.S. Sequoia, in use from Hoover to Carter, who had it sold in 1977, the fiscally prudent fellow he was.

I'm a big "The Wire" fan, but how am I supposed to know the rank of the tertiary characters?  Jay Landsman was a SGT.  The real Jay Landsman was thin, and the inspiration for detective John Munch, a character from "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

Speaking of Munch, it's no surprise that the Edvard Munch Museum is in OSLO.

For "gives comfort" I put *SUCCORS but it's SOLACES, and that slowed me down.  Likewise, I put *SCARF for "gobble down," and it's the much less common SNARF.

BRYCE Canyon is a National Park in Utah, home to the largest hoodoo collection in the world!

Prince George is Prince William's oldest SON.  Who can keep track of all these royals?

I've never heard of writer ANN Beattie, who seems to have a mixed record.

Muckraker IDA Tarbell was exposed on September 21.

Long, thin mushroom ENOKI was last unearthed on July 18.

That's it for the new stuff.  I might have had the record for today, but got help up at ANN Beattie crossed with *SCARF.  For the theme, I rate this one TEN out of ten.  And now, it's OVER.