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.

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