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.

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