Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: Friday, November 30, 2018

My time: 11:17.


Robyn Weintraub thought up this themeless, which has a couple of modern phrases (NANNY STATE, HOLD MY BEER, TONE IT DOWN) but is otherwise fairly unremarkable.

"Resort in Salt Lake County" is ALTA, last seen on September 24, 2017.  No wonder I didn't remember it!

"Little suckers" is APHIDS.  This is because they use their piercing sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap.

OSAGE, the Native American tribe and the orange, have both come up before.  Today it is clued as "county in a Pulitzer-prize winning play title."  That's "August: OSAGE County," a 2007 dramedy by Tracy Letts.

I misspelled the mountaineering tool PITON at first.

Never heard of RAISA Smetanina, a Russian cross-country skier who was the first woman to win 10 Winter Olympic medals, from 1976 to 1992.

I did not know that the MYNA was originally native to southern Asia, especially India.  They are an invasive species in Australia and known as "cane toads of the sky."

Title character of a "Dora the Explorer" spinoff is DIEGO, Dora's cousin, of "Go, Diego, Go."

We love Lena Olin, but have never heard of Ken OLIN, who was a lead on "Thirtysomething" and the producer of "This is Us."

We have heard of the Saab car, but not ELIE Saab, a Lebanese fashion designer who originally specialized in bridal couture.

Point REYES Peninsula, in California, is in the part Point Reyes National Seashore, as showcased on September 30, 2017.

"Vette alternative" is, of course, the Pontiac GTO.

The University of Maryland TERRAPINS came up on April 15.

Clever clues: "Coping mechanisms?" is SAWS.  "Eastern state" is ZEN.  "Holders of solutions" is TEST TUBES.  "Employer of some shepherds" is CANINE UNIT (not K-nine unit like I thought it might be).  "Message that might be sent in a storm?" is TWEET.

Whew!  That's a lot.  I couldn't do Thursday's puzzle, with all its twists and turns.  Well, I'm GONE.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle: November 28, 2018

My time: 17:35, a full seven minutes slower than average.


Today's time was ridiculously slow, embarrassingly slow, even hilariously slow.  I don't know what the big problem was.  I just got stuck early on and never recovered.  I had an abnormally hard time with vague but not particularly devious clues (like "Strawberry, e,g," for FLAVOR --- I thought it might be about Darryl?).

David J. Kahn is the evil mastermind behind this puzzle that nearly did me in.  Six rings of squares, indicated by circles, spell out words that have something in common.  They are horn, pastry, cuff, poodle (this is the point I gleaned the common denominator), kiss, and door.  All of these can be preceded by French, and they form circles, so the grid-spanning Down answer "historical event suggested by each of the six groups of circled letters" is FRENCH REVOLUTION.  Get it?  Circles?  Revolution?

Why didn't this puzzle run on July 14?

"Staggering" is AREEL.  That took a while!  Probably because it's not a word!

I also had a hard time with "'I am not what I am' speaker."  This is IAGO, proclaiming himself to be a hidden devil disguised as a helpful counselor.

Hernando DE SOTO (1495-1542) was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula, and played an important role in Francisco Pizarro's 1531 conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru, but is best known for leading the first Spanish and European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States. He is the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River.

"Provided, as data" is FED IN, which seems a bit off to me.  Are we feeding the machine actual paper?

The third ALMA to appear in this blog is President ALMA Coin of the Hunger Games.  She is played by Julianne Moore in the movies.

For "veil material" I put *TOILE and then *TUILE.  It's TULLE.

RON Darling is a baseball pitcher and commentator.  During his 13-year career, Darling amassed a 136–116 won-loss record, with 13 shutouts. He had 1,590 strikeouts and a 3.87 ERA.

I've never been a huge Abba fan.  I put *BJORN instead of BENNY Anderson.  The other one is Björn Ulvaeus.

The ISERE River, in southeast France, merges with the Rhone in Valence.  It is known for its white water kayaking.

"Govt. watchdog until 1996" is ICC, as showcased on June 21, when 1995 was noted as its end date.

Help wanted ad EEO also appeared on June 21.

We learned that ERTE was the cover designer for "Harper's Bazaar" on May 25.

Clever clues: "Tee off" is MIFF.  "Roast a bit" is RIB.  "Roast bit" is ONE-LINER.  "Surfing moniker" is USER ID --- that got me good.  "Emory board feature?" is DEANS.

Whew.  What a long, strange trip that was.  I'm A TAD worn out now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 27, 2018

My time: 5:11.


Erik Agard took time off his busy schedule to give us this puzzle, which makes a pun out of a "what do these things have in common?" question.  FRIED EGG, CANDIDATE, COMPUTER PROGRAM ("you might learn a new language to write one"), and EDITORIAL are all things that run, so their "parting words" would be... GOTTA RUN.  Ha!  Puns.

The sixth letter after alpha is ETA.  Gotta know the Greek alphabet in order, apparently.  It goes, for the first ten: Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa.  Or, in Greek, Α α, Β β, Γ γ, Δ δ, Ε ε, Ζ ζ, Η η, Θ θ, Ι ι, Κ κ.

"Big name in nail polish" OPI first came up... two days ago, this Sunday.

I've heard of Alice Walker, but I did not know she coined and popularized WOMANISM.  This social theory hopes "to restore the balance between people and the environment/nature and reconcile human life with the spiritual dimension."  In less New Agey terms, it holds at its core that both femininity and culture are equally important to the woman's existence. In this conception one's femininity cannot be stripped from the culture within which it exists.

The largest island in Asia is BORNEO.  It is 288,800 square miles and is shared by three countries: Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The song "HOT HOT HOT" is known to me in its Buster Poindexter incarnation.  I knew it was a cover, but had no idea the originator was a musician named Arrow.  And a new word to me is in the clue: it's a soca hit.  What is soca?  A style of music meaning "soul of calypso," invented by Trinidadian musician Lord Shorty.

I thought "solar deity" was asking for a particular name but it's just a thesaurus-inspired rewording: SUN GOD.  Boring!

Clever clues: "What may hold a bather or butter" is TUB.  "Pop flies?" is SWAT.

This was a cleverly contructed puzzle.  I very much appreciated the SLY theme.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 26, 2018

My time: 5:07


Word geek Evan Kalish lets out his INNER NERD in this puzzle, showcasing five phrases that also have one: WIENER DOG, SCREENER DVDS, DINNER DATE, BANNER DAYS ("times when everything goes perfectly"), and DESIGNER DRUG.

"Nickname for a 12-time NBA star" is DWADE, for Dwayne Wade, a shooting guard mostly for the Miami Heat.

In other sports news, a DC baseball player is a NAT, as shown in December 4, 2017.

It's crossword mainstay NAS again, after a long hiatus without him.  His album Illmatic was a clue on January 25, 2018.

"Tune from Turandot" is ARIA, like "Nessun Dorma."  Remember?

And that puts a LOCKE on this Monday's puzzle.  G'DAY!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 25, 2018

My time: 26:09.


Joon Pahk celebrates "Silent Finales" (that is, "Silent Final E's" at the ends of CVC words) with this puzzle.  Several well-known phrases have E added at the end, changing their meanings and clued as they now read.

For example, "dropping the baton in a relay race, e.g." would be a RUNNING LAPSE.  The rather prolix clue "photo caption for the winning team's MVP being carried off the field?" is A STAR IS BORNE.  "Warning not given on a golf course?" is UNCALLED FORE.   "Two things you might find in Sherwood Forest?" is COPSE AND ROBBERS.  Maybe the best one is "hematite, magnetite --- take your pick," which is EITHER ORE.  And so on.

Once I got that the themed answers all ended in e, it helped a bit.  Still, I struggled some with this one.

"Place for bears or villains" is a great clue for LAIRS.  I also liked "scads of" for UMPTEEN.

I got tripped up on "first-generation Japanese-American."  I thoughtlessly yet confidently put *NISEI, which is of course second-generation Japanese.  The correct answer is ISSEI.

Arthur ASHE comes up an awful lot in the puzzle.  Today he's clued as "longtime athlete on the US Davis Cup team."  In 1963 Ashe was the first African-American chosen to play Davis Cup for the United States, and in ten years representing his country, helped the US win five championships (1963, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1978).

For "capital of Albania" I wrote *TIRANA which is the properly spelled way but for some reason the puzzle has it spelled TIRANE, which almost no one does.  This is annoying.

Atlas and Titan are both names of US-made ICBMs.

Steven CHU was a terrific energy secretary under Obama.  An educated man, an actual scientist, in the government, making responsible decisions about fuel and power!  Remember those?

"First leg of an itinerary" is ATOB.  Atob?  Oh, it's A TO B.

La STRADA is a 1954 drama directed by Frederico Fellini.  The film portrays a naïve young woman (Giulietta Masina) bought from her mother by a brutish strongman (Anthony Quinn) who takes her with him on the road.

For "blues legend Waters" of course I put *MUDDY, but it's ETHEL Waters (no relation), a blues, jazz, and swing singer.  Waters was the second African American to be nominated for an Academy Award (for Pinky in 1949). She was the first African-American to star on her own television show ("The Ethel Waters Show," 1939), and the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award, in 1961.

Another less-famous female version in this puzzle is SHARI Belafonte, daughter of Harry and an actress and singer.

I don't know how to spell ENSENADA, a city in Baja California, 78 miles south of San Diego.

Did you know LA BREA is next to Beverly Grove?  Me neither!

"Nail polish brand with the colors Teal the Cows Come Home and Berry Fairy Fun" is OPI.  Never heard of them!  My wife's favorite color by them is I'm Not Really a Waitress.

ELSIE Hughes is a main character on "Westworld."  She is a programmer for the hosts of the theme park Westworld on the show.  She is played by Shannon Woodward.

A BRIG is a vessel with two masts, not just the clink on the drink.

Halle Berry was the 1986 runner-up MISS USA.  She was Miss Ohio.  Now that you know that, you are ready to participate in the Halle Berry Trivia Championships.

Today's clue and question combo that wins the "most initials" award, LL Cool J starred in the spinoff "NCIS LA."

I couldn't quite remember how to spell ADELIE penguin.  I knew it wasn't Adele.  They are named after Adélie Land, in turn named for Adèle Dumont d'Urville, the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville, who discovered these penguins in 1840.

De bene ESSE is a Latin law phrase meaning ex parte or provisionally, in anticipation of future need.  For example, "in certain cases, the courts will allow evidence to be taken out of the regular course, in order to prevent the evidence being lost by the death or the absence of the witness. This is called taking evidence de bene esse."

Never heard of Tommy HAAS, an injury-prone German-American tennis player.  He won one silver medal at the 2000 Olympics.

Actress NIA Long has come up quite a few times, and I keep writing her name as *MIA at first.

The ARAL Sea was clued on October 12, 2017 as being greatly diminished.  It was once the world's second-largest freshwater lake!

The DALI painting "The Hallucinogenic Toreador" was examined on September 17, 2017.

The KSU Wildcats came up on December 7, 2017.

The Washington Capitals of the NHL were showcased on August 5.

Clever clues: "Get an F in physics?" is MISSPELL.  "Place for a stud to go" is EAR.  "Moon race?" is EWOKS.  "Bit of ink" is TAT (not *DOT).  "Spike" is LACE.  "Page of a movie script?" is ELLEN.  "Something on the rise today" is SEA LEVEL.

Whew!  That's a boatload and a half of new stuff.  It took a while!  Maybe I was too LOGY.  Anyway, ALBEE back.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 24, 2018

My time: 20:53, not too bad considering.


David Steinberg designed this themeless that has six grid-spanning Across answers.  It's not the finest Saturday puzzle ever.  It has some good points and some things to carp about.

I liked SWIPER, NO SWIPING!, THE CLAWS COME OUT ("things get ugly"), and HIGH MAINTENANCE ("demanding").

"Cry for attention, maybe" is a pretty vague clue for MEOW, but backed up by science!

Here's a new word for me: SHOJI, the lattice-framed paper screens used as room dividers in Japanese homes.  This clue helped me immediately associate the Japanese TATAMI for the later clue "straw mat."

For "capitol vehicle" I got stuck on it ending in cab, and that slowed me down. I even put in *METRO CAB for a bit, although that's not anything DC-related.  It turns out to be STATE CAR.  That makes much more sense.  Similarly, for "not just down," I got in my head that it might end in out but it's IN A HOLE.

"How some bonds are sold" is AT PAR.  This just means at the bond's face value.

Here's one of the bigger things to carp about.  "Suffers humiliation."  *EATS CROW, obviously, right?  Wrong.  It's EATS DIRT.  No!  No one says this.  Terrible clue.  If you need these letters as an answer, why not put the (more interesting, anyway) clue "suffers from geophagia, say"?  This bad cluing cost me a lot of time.

Did you know KAN is home to the largest grain elevator in the world?

"E-4 and E-5, but not E-3" is NCOS.  E-1 through E-3 are the Junior Enlisted Ranks, from private to specialist.  E-4 is corporal and E-5 is sergeant.

As I am very old and totally out of touch with the Musics of Today, I have never heard of JESSIE J or her song with Nicki Minaj and Arianda Grande, "Bang Bang."  Even though it reached the top ten in fourteen countries, got a Grammy nomination, and went six-times platinum.

Crossing this baffling clue is "specialized."  I couldn't figure out NICHE from this, having reluctantly guessed *NICER (as in a finer, nicer distinction --- weak, I know).

"Drink flavorer" stymied me for a while until I figured out it was ZEST.  In other drink clues, I kept thinking that "drink that competes with Monster" was something like jet fuel but since that's not actually a brand of anything, the answer is RED BULL.

I hate the blank clues, like "___ big" for YEA.

"Big name in shipping" is DHL (last seen on May 29).  Through a series of wrong crossed answers, I had *CEL, surprisingly also a valid answer.

A TARTE Tatin is a fruit-filled pastry that is flipped over onto a plate just before serving.  It's named after the hotel where it was served.

Actor AIDAN Quinn appeared on April 13.  Today we learn he is in the CBS TV show "Elementary."

"Standford rival" is CAL, as in University of California, as discussed on January 28.

I just recently heard of Jean-Baptiste-Camille COROT, in this puzzle, on November 11, as the painter of The Bridge at Narni.  Today he is clued as the painter of Ville d'Avray (which seems to be title shared by more than one work).

Clever clues: "It's not backed up" is IDLE SPECULATION.  "Ancestor of a cell" tries to fool you with hypothetical biology, but it's actually about technology: BEEPER.  "One way to lose your balance?" is ACCOUNTING ERROR.  "Digs in the snow?" is IGLOO; it didn't phase me for a second but I appreciate the pun.  "Trio of mummies" is EMS.  "10/" for OCT is pretty good.

PHEW, I finally got through that.  So, as I said, some fun parts some not so fun parts.  I SRTA liked it.  And now, I'm off.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 23, 2018

My time: 12:07.


Temple Brown is the author of this enjoyable themeless that features twelve long answers. 

I've heard of the show "Orphan Black" but not "Almost Royal."  They're both on BBC AMERICA.

"Ginormous quantities" is an apt clue for the non-standard SQUILLIONS.

ALMA Reville was Alfred Hitchcock's wife and collaborator.  She helped write Suspicion and Shadow of a Doubt, but also worked on other films as continuity advisor and editor.

The NRA has appeared a few times in this blog, once as the publisher of the magazine "American Hunter."  Today it's clued as the org. behind the magazine "America's 1st Freedom."  I thought America's first freedom is the right to free speech and assembly.  Silly me.

"Tennis's only two-time Grand Slam winner" is Rod LAVER.  He was the No. 1 ranked professional from 1964 to 1970, spanning four years before and three years after the start of the Open Era in 1968.  Laver's 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history. Laver won 11 Grand Slam singles titles despite being banned from them for five years before the Open Era.  He achieved a Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969, and the latter remains the only time a man has done so in the Open Era.  The hard court tournament Laver Cup is named after him.

A MERL is a type of blackbird, though it's usually spelled with an e --- merle.

"Relative of a malt shop" is a MILK BAR?  Welly, welly, my droogs!  Viddy that!  Actually it seems to be an Australian thing.

ITO Hirobumi served as the first, fifth, seventh, and tenth Prime Minister of Japan, from 1885 to 1901.  Itō rejected the United States Constitution as too liberal and the Spanish Restoration as too despotic before ultimately drawing on the British and German models, especially the Prussian Constitution of 1850.

"Word before sign or after red" is CENT.  Cent sign?  No one says cent sign.

I know the song "OL' MAN RIVER" but I guess I couldn't have identified it as from the 1927 musical Show Boat.

The Olympics were held in ASIA for the first time in 1964.  Specifically, Tokyo, Japan

I love cooking shows and contests, but somehow have avoided watching "Top Chef."  PADMA Lakshmi, a model, actress, and author, has been the host of the US version since 2006.

"Largest river to the Laptev Sea" is LENA, as described way back on December 14, 2017.

Clever clues: "Foreign dishes?" is UFOS.  "It covers the floor" is C-SPAN.  "One to swear by?" is JOVE.  "State without words?' is AWE.  "Like some tracks" is OVAL --- I was thinking of animal tracks, not running surfaces.

Ahhh. I breathe ACAI of relief as this one goes in the books.  Happy black Friday!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 22, 2018

My time: 14:13.


No Thanksgiving theme today.  Instead Randolph Ross gives us some word play based on missing letters.  The themed clues, given in all capital letters, have one missing letter each, which is reflected in the answer.

The clue "OWARD" I kept thinking might be implying [t]OWARD but it's meant to be [c]OWARD, or a HEADLESS CHICKEN.  Get it?  The "head" of the word, the letter C, is missing.

"QUARR[y]" is, similarly, BOTTOMLESS PIT.  "SEASO[n]" is ENDLESS SUMMER --- this was the first themed answer I got.  I had some trouble with "[b]IKINI," because why is a bikini a TOPLESS SWIMSUIT?  It has a top!  I don't get it.

Anyway, that's a fun theme.  But why no Thanksgiving?  There is a place for turkey!

Everyone knows what the UKRAINE is.  But I have the word sense of geography in the world.  It's apparently a neighbor of Moldova!  They had a 1990-92 conflict over a semi-autonomous region called Transnistria.

PRO RATA is a Latin phrase meaning in proportion.  It is sued in investment to mean an appropriate allocation of funds.

And I'll stick with Latin phrases for $200, Alex.  "Quod ERAT faciendum."  What is, "what was to be done"?  Yes, and we also would have accepted What was to be constructed.  Used in geometry when there was nothing to prove, but there was something being constructed, for example a triangle with the same size as a given line.

Despite my absolutely immense multiverse-spanning knowledge of comic book characters, I couldn't quite come up with Linda LEE, Supergirl's adopted Earth naame.  Kara Zor-El is her original Kryptonian name, before all the reboots.

The Greek letter PSI has come up a lot (in the plural) on this blog, but today it's clued as "letter that appears twice in the Schrödinger equation."  Since mathematicians use PSI to designate wave functions, and atomic particles are wavelike in nature, the equation is meant to explain the behavior of atomic particles.

ELKO is a city and county in Nevada.  It is home to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

"Jewish holiday with costumes" is PURIM. It celebrates the story of ESTH. and how she saved the Jews.  And Haman was hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai.  I wasn't aware costumes came into it.  One reason may be because the story celebrates "the hidden" --- the miracle that appears to be a series of regular events. Another reason to is to save beggars from embarrassment.

The Golden Horde is the name given to the Mongol Khanate, so I wanted to write Mongol, but it doesn't fit.  It's TATAR.

California has several places named SHASTA, including a lake a mountain, but the SHASTA-Trinity National Forest in the northern part of the state, is the one clued at here.

Maurice Ravel, early 20th-century French composer, was known for his difficult pieces.  "Gaspard de la NUIT" is one of them.  It is based on a poem; the titular character is meant to be the devil.

Winner of 12 Olympic medals DARA Torres appeared on May 5.

BALI was noted as "Island of the Gods" on October 2, 2017.

Clever clues: "Distress signal?" is ACHE.  "Some lumps" is SUGAR.  "Superior floor, e.g." is LAKE BED.  "Took the heat off of?" is DISARMED.

And I shall STOP here, since that's all that was new or troublesome to me today.  Thus ENDS IT.  Time to eat stuffing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 21, 2018

My time: 9:13.


Brandon Koppy has us wondering where he stands with this puzzle and all its FLIP-FLOPS.  Nine themed clues are two-part phrases or words that can be switched to become other phrases.

For example, "half of a 1990s cartoon duo" is Butt-head, but it's in the puzzle flipped, appearing as HEADBUTT.  "Noted Vegas entertainers of the 1960s" is the Rat Pack, but is entered in the puzzle as PACKRAT.  "Neanderthal" becomes MAN CAVE.  "Informal term for a brothel" is entered as HOUSE CAT.  And so forth.

The only one I didn't like was GLASS EYE for "Mr. Peanut accessory."  An eyeglass?  Who says that?  It's a monocle, innit?

In the fill, there's some new and seldom-seen stuff, like FORTNITE, ANTIFA, APPLE PAY, NEKO Case, and Emanuel RAHM.

Mel OTT comes up a lot in this puzzle.  Today he's clued as "six-time NL home run leader in the 1920s and '40s."

Tom yum soup is a THAI dish, a hot and sour soup made with lemongrass, chiles, and coconut.

I know an island named TIMOR exists, but due to my nonexistent geography-fu, I didn't get it from the clue "island north of Australia."

Know your Hebrew months!  KISLEV is the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar.

"POD Save America" is a political podcast I have vaguely heard of.

Novelist ANYA Seton came up on July 31.

Clever clues: "Dogs that take you for a walk?" is FEET.  "Tube travelers?" is OVA.  "Mom-and-pop grps." is PTAS. "Night lights?" is AURORA.  "Special interest group?" is THE FED.

This is a terrific puzzle, very clever and well-executed. I liked the ENTIRE thing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

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

My time: 5:45.


Zhouqin Burnikel celebrates turkey day a few days early with this puzzle.  "Turkey's place" is the single clue repeated for four answers: POULTRY FARM, RAZZIE AWARDS, BOWLING ALLEY (three strikes in a row is called a turkey in bowling), and WESTERN ASIA.

I already knew of Jerry Stiller's wife and comedy partner, but I had trouble spelling her name: Anne MEARA.

Did you know Shaquille O'NEAL has a podcast called "The Big Podcast with Shaq"?  Inventive name, that.  Also, one of his nicknames is The Diesel.

I didn't know that Egypt, Sudan and Syria all use some form of POUND as currency.  The Sudanese pound is divided into 100 piastres.  The Syrian pound is divided into qirsh, but this is also called piastres in English.

The 1998 Winter Olympics were held at NAGANO, Japan.  It was the first time there was women's ice hockey. The mascots were four snowy owls.

Know your birthstones!  OPAL is the birthstone for October, along with tourmaline.  It is thus the one "after sapphire," which is September's birthstone.

"Home of the Rams, for short" is SO. CAL.  This refers to the Los Angeles Rams, located of course in Southern California.

Fun puzzle!  A light and amusing theme.  Nothing challenging in it.  But also no cleverness to the clues.  And now, I'm OUT A here.  I have some turkey shopping to do.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 19, 2018

My time: 5:05.


Jim Hilger defines a few films for us in this Monday puzzle.  It's a good idea, but the execution is poor.

The first one is "Green 1986 film?" and the answer is THE COLOR OF MONEY.  I think it would be more clever and enjoyable if the clue had just read "green, in film" or the like.  "Fluid 2017 film" is THE SHAPE OF WATER.

And then there's "Noted 1965 film?" which is THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  But... but that doesn't fit the theme at all.  The sound of music isn't "noted."  It's melodic or melodious or euphonious or rhythmic.  It isn't "noted."  That's a completely different kind of pun, and it ruins the joke of the puzzle.  Poor job, Hilger.

This could have been a real treat, but instead I found it kind of disappointing.

For some bizarre reason, when I read "percussion in pagoda" my mind focused on gondola instead and I was baffled.  Yes, a GONG is often seen in a pagoda.  Rarely in a gondola.

NOVAK Djokovic is a Serbian tennis player who is, as of this writing, currently ranked number one in men's singles.  He is also the all-time leader in prize money won at over 120 million.

I know that Carl ORFF composed Carmina Burana, but what is it?  It is a scenic cantata (a vocal composition, with instruments), based on a medieval Latin text on various subjects, including the fickleness of fortune, gluttony, the ephemeral nature of life, and the return of spring.  The most famous part is "O Fortuna," which sounds like the crescendo in a high art horror movie about a satanic cult.

"Engulf, old-style" is WHELM.

That's the end of this Monday!  I did not think it was BOFFO.  I think Will Shortz should have SAT ON this one until the themed clues were all made parallel.  And now, ADIEU.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 18, 2018

My time: 21:19.


Byron Walden and Joel Fagliano blended their discrete talents together (into a new man, Byroel Waldiano) to make this crossword, which takes certain portmanteau words and gives them a new, totally fake meaning.  In other words, they become... "Portmanfaux."  Ha!  Bilingual humor.

Anyhoo, in this puzzle the themed answers run (somewhat confusingly, to me, at first) like this: two words that go together, followed immediately by the portmanteau word that fits, but isn't really derived from, that phrase.  "Late morning meal for a TV family?" is BRADY BUNCH BRUNCH.  "Satchel for a homicide detective?" is MURDER CASE MURSE.  "Utensil for eating some cured meat?" is SALTED PORK SPORK.  Perhaps the most ludicrous, and thus my favorite, is "one way to buy mustard cheaply?" which is GREY POUPON GROUPON.

And now the fill!

"Houston squad, casually" is 'STROS!  "Hey, you catch that 'Stros game last night?" That can't be real.

MUDCAT is the colloquial name given to the bottom-feeding catfish of the Mississippi.

Did you know RBIS are sometimes called RIBEYES?

In this crossword, URI usually means University of Rhode Island (go Rhodies!) but today URI is the Swiss canton where William Tell made his famous shot.

A variety of poker known as HI-LO is when the winning high hand splits the pot with the hand that is the lowest, disregarding straights and flushes.  If you have a straight and the lowest run of cards, you can take both!  This is called a scoop.

I never knew that ERASMUS is credited with the phrase "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."

I also didn't know that UTICA is on the Erie Canal.  However, much more interesting is that its nicknames include "Sin City" and "The City That God Forgot."

Never heard of EVAN Spiegel, founder of Snapchat.

"Peter's chief of staff on 'The Good Wife.'"  We're really going down the useless shaft of the trivia mine here, aren't we?  It's ELI Gold, played by Alan Cumming.

"Hit the hide off a baseball" is RIP IT.  Is it, though?

IMRE Nagy was the 44th Prime Minister of Hungary, a communist (though not Soviet-backed) politician who was executed after his government was brought down by Soviet invasion.

I read Walden centuries ago and didn't care for it at all, but maybe I was too young and stupid for it.  Anyway, the LOON is one of the animals that seems to symbolize something else: being at home in both water and the air, it represents Thoreau's quest to be integrated into the natural world.  But he can't catch it, because that quest is impossible.

The Prisoner of Zenda is an 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope.  In it, the King of RURITANIA is prevented from attending the coronation that must take place for him to stay on the throne.  So an Englishman who resembles the king is brought on as a decoy.

Anatomy lesson: the rotator cuff, actually not a single thing but a group of muscles and tendons, rotates the HUMERUS.

The president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and from 2006 to 2010, OSCAR ARIAS Sánchez won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work to end the civil wars in Central America, efforts which led to an accord signed in Guatemala.

Delmonico steak was extensively researched back on June 4, but was defined as a strip steak or short loin.  Now they say these cuts are RIBEYES.  That's one of the possibilities.  The current iteration of the Delmonico served at Delmonico's in New York is a ribeye.  But some differ.

I've heard of a white paper, but a BLUE PAPER is a newer term.  It refers to a detailed list of the technical specifications of a technology.

CHU Hsi, spelled in Pinyin Zhu Xi, was a Song Dynasty Confucian philosopher.  He was the leading figure in rationalist Confucianism of his era. His contributions to Chinese philosophy include his assigning special significance to the Analects, the Mencius, the Great Learning, and the Doctrine of the Mean (the Four Books), his emphasis on the investigation of things (gewu), and the synthesis of all fundamental Confucian concepts.

Christoph Willibald Gluck was an 18th century Bohemian composer.  One of his most famous works is Orfeo ed EuridiceAnyway, the character of Orfeo is an ALTO, at least sometimes.

"Crescent-shaped Italian pastries" are CORNETTI, or "little horns."  Cornetti are the croissant's richer, sweeter cousin. The dough is enriched with egg and sugar, and flavored with vanilla and fresh orange and lemon zest.

"Flora and fauna" is BIOTA, a new word to me, but it means just what it says, the animal and plant life in a biome.

I have never heard the end to the Churchill quote about the riddle wrapped in a mystery, etc.  It ends "...but perhaps there is A KEY."  The next sentence is also nearly always left off: "That key is Russian national interest."

The ION channel appeared on January 28.

The baseball hit ("just beyond the infield") BLOOP appeared on August 1.

Clever clues: "Elevators in an office building?" is HEELS. "Nurse" is SIP.  "Can-can dancing?" is TWERKING.  "Split personality?" is EX PARTNER.

And that's a RAP!  This took a dreadfully long time, but I enjoyed the challenge.  And now, I gotta HAUL ASS.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 16, 2018

My time: 16:06.


I had a really hard time with this themeless by Kyle Dolan.  Wrong answers that I wrote in kept leading to more wrong answers.

Some things I put in right off, like WHITE BLOOD CELLS and RIDE SHARE.

But for the Down clue "edge" I put *RIM.  Another Down clue, "what a politician's promises and actions should do," had me guessing.  I put *MATCH and then *AGREE.  With this M and E intersecting, I put *STAMPEDE across for "faster, faster!"  But it turns out "edge" is LIP, the politician's acts and words should ALIGN, and that makes the Across answer STEP ON IT.

For "precisely" I put *ON TARGET but it's ON THE DOT.  I also wanted "challenge for a mover" to be *PIANO, and then *CHINA, and got so stuck on the idea that it took me a great while to get COUCH.

I didn't know Captain Von Trapp's name in The Sound of Music.  It's GEORG.

On March 20, I learned that a SUMO ring is called a dohyo.  Today I was reminded (it sounds vaguely familiar) that the participants are called rikishi.

You know who else sounds vaguely familiar to me?  Elizabeth ARDEN.  She is the founder of a makeup and cosmetics company.  Apparently she said, "There's only one Elizabeth like me, and that's the queen."  She also said "To be beautiful is the birthright of every woman."

Arthur ASHE comes up a lot in the puzzle. Today we learn that the ESPY Courage award is called the Arthur ASHE Courage Award, given since 1993.

According to today's puzzle, "torah" means LAW, but according to Wikipedia, "The word Torah in Hebrew is derived from a root meaning to guide or teach. The meaning of the word is therefore 'teaching' or 'doctrine.'  The commonly accepted law gives a wrong impression."

I used to know all the capitals of Australia.  ADELAIDE is the capital of South Australia.

Brie LARSON won a Best Actress for her role as the mother in Room.  And she's going to be Captain Marvel, yay!

Never heard of HEIDI Heitkamp, the Democratic senator from North Dakota from 2013-18. 

"Young prey for a bobcat" is such a weird clue for OWLET.

I had no idea that there are two breaks in a cricket test match: a lunch break and a TEA break.

Oh boy, the topic most near and dear to my heart: college sports!  "Bulldog's NCAA rival" is GATOR.  That's the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the University of Florida Gators, who have played a game every year since 1915.  "My local academic institution offers more enticing packages to people who can run and catch than your local academic institution!  Extremely localized region pride!"

A SLIME MOLD is not a creature from the Fiend Folio, but one of several kinds of unrelated eukaryotic organisms that can live freely as single cells, but can aggregate together to form multicellular reproductive structures.  Once classed as a fungus, it is now thought of as protista (the catch-all for those not in the Big Three).

"Period of great climate change" is EOCENE, a geological Epoch that occurred in the Paleogenic period of the Cenozoic era.  So, 56 to 34 million years ago.  It is marked by a wide variety of different climate conditions that includes the warmest climate in the Cenozoic era and ends in an icehouse climate.  The epoch ends with an extinction event.  Just like ours will be!

"Windmill blades, essentially" turned out to be RADII, which is pretty devious.

Because I'm old, I've never heard of all of these current hitmakers.  BEBE Rexha had a #1 hit in 2017 called "Meant to Be."

The Greek island IOS appeared on January 9, noted as being in the Cyclades and being famed for its cheeses.  Today the island is clued as a neighbor of Santorini.

The Parisian street RUE de Rivoli is named after the Napoleonic battle cited on November 9, 2017.

"Raiders' org." is DEA.  On May 27 it was ATF.

Clever clues: "A chorus line?' is TRA LA LA.  "Key in?" is TAB, I suppose because it makes you move "in" along a line?

This was a very tough Friday!  Is it a THREE STAR puzzle?  Out of four, I guess.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 15, 2018

My time: 15:11, far from great but slightly faster than average.


Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen owe us big for making us go through this tough Thursday!  I was ready for shenanigans right from the start, however, knowing that dubious honor and why I oughta (oughtta?) were almost certainly the answers to "Making a Top Party Schools list" and "catchphrase for Moe Howard," respectively.  But they didn't fit!

The theme hint is "money to start small businesses."  Even before I figured out MICROLOANS, I knew that the clue meant IOU needed to be in a rebus square to make the themed answers fit.  So they turned into DUB[IOU]S HONOR and WHY [I OU]GHTA, crossed with OUI, OUI ("certainement!") and PREC[IOU]S GEMS.  The other themed boxes are...

ENV[IOU]S ("going green?" --- that's funny) crossed with VAR[IOU]S.
Then OD[IOU]S ("repulsive"), crossed with S[IOU]AN.  This last is clued as "Winnebago, for one."  The Winnebago, apparently properly called the Ho-Chunk people, speak Siouan.
And finally, GRAC[IOU]S ME crossed with the NOTOR[IOU]S B.I.G.  I didn't know his record label was called Bad Boy Records.

We've all heard of Gloria STEINEM.  But did we know she wrote a book called Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions?  It was written in 1987.  This collection of writings includes pieces on topics ranging from love to money and from food to erotica, essays on personal experience as political revelation, and profiles of and interviews.  Today there is a Second Edition available.

The clue "Martini & _____ (vermouth)" puzzled the hell out of me.  The answer is ROSSI.  The name Martini & Rossi is an Italian alcohol company.  It produces a vermouth brand named Martini.  Not the cocktail.  So confusing!  Nobody really knows if the drink was named after the brand, but their adverts were soon claiming "It’s not a Martini unless you use Martini."

Word of the day: ELUTE, meaning "to remove something from an adsorbent by means of a solvent."  I hope to organically work this term into my conversation as soon as possible.

Apparently the capital of Venezuela, CARACAS, is officially known as Santiago de León de Caracas.

SHOSHONE FALLS is a waterfall, near Twin Falls, on the Snake River in IDAHO.  It's the Niagara of the West, they do say!

Zeno of ELEA is back, baby!  Remember him from January 7?

"1970s NL powerhouse" refers to the Cincinnati REDS, the Big Red Machine, as explained on May 5.

"Instrument with a needle" is TACH, for tachymeter, which was last seen on April 22.

Clever clues: "Strike zones?' is LANES.  "Choice of juice?" is AC/DC.  "1990s game disk" is POG --- not a floppy or even electronic at all!  Psych!  "Wind in a pit" is OBOE.  "Keyless" is ATONAL --- I was thinking about keyless entry.

Well, solving this one in the time I did was no great FEAT, but a rebus is extenuating circumstances.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 14, 2018

My time: 6:21.


The manly and hirsute Sam Trabucco teaches us how to GROW A BEARD in this puzzle.  The grid itself shows us how in five easy steps: B FLAT MAJOR ("key for five Mozart piano concertos" --- the type of clue I hate the most), BE YOURSELF, BEA ARTHUR, BEAR TRACKS ("worrisome sign around a campsite"), and the final product.

I didn't know there was a muse in Xanadu.  I've never seen it and knew nothing about it.  It seems to be about a frustrated artists who falls in love with an actual muse, played by Olivia Newton-John.  However, she is called Kira in the movie and seems to be maybe Terpsichore.  That said, all nine muses are characters in the movie, so ERATO is technically true as an answer, but the question is quite misleading. 

Today we have both "letter-shaped beam" I-RAIL and "letter-shaped fastener" T-NUT.

Another bridge clue!  It's 2018.  Anyway, apparently a SPADE beats a heart?  Surely this explanation for dummies will make things crystal clear!

I vaguely know the name JANELLE Monáe as a rapper or singer, but apparently she also played Mary Jackson, one of the mathematicians in Hidden Figures.

The terms OATER and SNARFED are the types of words you see pretty much only in crosswords.

The fairy queen in "Romeo and Juliet" is MAB, though I put *MAG, half-remembering this answer from December 6, 2017.

"Benson" actress INGA Swenson last appeared on April 26.

Clever clue: "It might require antiviral treatment to beat" is MALWARE.

This was a fun puzzle!  I liked the theme.  I don't want to be THAT GUY, but to me it was pretty easy for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 13, 2018

My time: 6:34.


John Ciolfi moves mountains to get this pun-rich puzzle together.  Playing off the mountain chain the ANDES, he includes six phrases, and ES at the end.

So the phrase house pet becomes HOUSE PETES --- that's "representatives Sessions (R-TX) and Aguilar (D-CA), for instance?"  Which is, praise the Lord, outdated.  Pete Sessions is out, amigos!  We took out the trash!  Pete Aguilar I hadn't heard of.

The other themed answers follow suit, like for the win becoming FOR THE WINES ("why many people visit Napa?").  Guess not becomes GUESS NOTES ("play 'Name That Tune'?"), and so on.

As always, study your capitals!  I know the world flags but not the capitals.  YAREN is clued as the  capital of Nauru in this puzzle.  But know-it-all Wikipedia interjects, "Yaren (and sometimes Aiwo) is usually listed as the capital of Nauru; however, the republic does not have cities [Yaren is nominally a "district"] or an official capital. Yaren is accepted by the United Nations as the main district."

GUIDO di Pietro is the birth name of the 15th century painter we know as Fra Angelico.

"Bygone court org. --- or current court org." is ABA.  This came up on September 16.

Sault STE. Marie, the Michigan town and bridge, came up on January 7.

The Jaguar model XK-E, aka the E-Type, keeps popping up on this blog and I keep not caring about it enough to remember.

Clever clues: "Handy thing to know, for short?" is ASL.  "Went after, in a way" is SUED.

And now, as Lady Macbeth says, TO BED.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 12, 2018

My time: 6:33.


This puzzle, lovingly arranged in place by Kathy Bloomer, has a theme based around setting a table.  I found it to be somewhat difficult for Monday and in at least one instance misleadingly clued.

"Declare something completely finished" is the clue for STICK A FORK IN IT, which... it isn't.  Sticking a fork in it isn't declaring it done.  That is, you don't actually stick a fork in something.  It's the thing that you say, not an action meaning declaration.  It's akin to having the clue "Say it's coming down hard" for rain cats and dogs.  A better clue for this would be a parallel equivalent, like "'Now that's completely done!'"  The two phrases are identical.  Or, on the definition side, "Comment from someone who's finally completed a project."

The other two themed answers are GAG ME WITH A SPOON and GO UNDER THE KNIFE.

The capper is "show up for negotiations," which is COME TO THE TABLE.  So, ha ha!  Utensils, and the table.  This is only "a hint" for the three themed answers above in a very oblique and unclever way.  You know what would have been much better?  The clue "the things you contribute to the goal," for the answer what one brings to the table.

I couldn't have named the LA Sparks or NY Liberty, but easily guessed they are WNBA teams.

OGLE is "give the glad eye."  That's not an expression I use very often!

Band leader ARTIE Shaw was also a clarinetist and author.  His big breakthrough was his 1938 recording of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine."

I disliked a few clues and answers.  "Delete from a manuscript" is the too-wordy EDIT OUT.  I think ACERB ("sour") is a rather abstruse for a Monday.  And "equal to face value" is a very inelegant clue, giving the clunky AT PAR.

Way back on October 24, 2017, I said I was surprised to see SOU in a Tuesday puzzle.  Here it is in the ancient, obsolete, and very much non-American expression "not worth a SOU" on a Monday!

"QB's mistake" is INT, which has come up a few times but still gave me pause.

I may be turning into a regular Rex Parker, but I didn't like this puzzle.  It's a blah Monday with bad editing.  I don't mean to PUT ON AIRS.  I'll be better tomorrow.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 11, 2018

My time: 25:35.


No Veteran's Day puzzle on this 11/11.  Instead, Eric Berlin has created an "Escape Room," in which the conceit is that you are locked in the puzzle and need to find your way out.  In order to do this, the solver must find four rebus squares.  Once these rebus squares are identified, the solver reads instructions within the grid.

The rebus squares contain the word [KEY] reading one way, but ignoring this rebus on the corresponding crossing word.  So, for example, LAC[KEY] is crossed with NASTINESS.  Here, therefore, one "key" is the letter A.  Next, "fine with me" is O[KEY]DOKE.  This is crossed with SWEET ("awesome!"), which makes this key a W. 

A "native Iowan" is a HAW[KEY]E.  This is crossed with IMARET, a "Turkish inn."  I wanted to put caravanserai, but it didn't fit!  An IMARET is a soup kitchen from the Ottoman Empire.  That's a new word to me!  But anyway, here this key is T.

Last we have "symbol of fire prevention" SMO[KEY], crossed with SNOW DAY, making the final key a Y.

"What's needed in order to escape this crossword" is LETTERS ON THE KEYS.  As shown, these are Y, W, A, and T.  Then, "what to do with the items" is PLACE THEM IN THE CORNERS to READ NEW DOWN WORDS.

The corner down words are LOU, ORE, OUR, and NOD.  Use the keys, and [y]OU [a]RE OU[t] NO[w]!

Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God almighty, I'm free at last!  And now let's SEGUE to the fill.

For "pants material" I wanted to put *DENIM but it's CHINO, a twill cotton cloth.

I'm not sure you need the "in slang" part of "stole, in slang" for PINCHED.  It's hardly some new-fangled outré term.  It's from the 1650s.  Indeed the 'slang" part made me hesitate to put the right answer.

Similarly, "not doing well" doesn't scan the same as BAD AT to me.  You are bad at doing something, but not doing well is a statement of condition.

I now who NEKO CASE is, but never heard of her 2009 album Middle Cyclone.  It was nominated for a Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy.

IPSO jure is a Latin phrase meaning "by operation of law." For example when a couple is divorced their property can revert ipso jure into a different for of ownership.

Makers of handmade cigars, luxury tobacco items, and other gifts, NAT Sherman is a company that was begun in 1930 by the eponymous founder.  He got his first start running a speakeasy in the 1920s.

A NICAD battery is a type of rechargeable battery using nickel oxide hydroxide and metallic cadmium as electrodes.  It's also referred to as a NiCd battery.

For "constantly fidgeting, say" I put *HYPER but it's ANTSY.

The game RISK appears a lot in this puzzle.  Today we learn that it uses 42 territory cards.

The slogan on Idaho license plates is "Famous POTATOES!"  I said that initially as a joke, but it's real!

Back to Latin!  "Latin 101 word" is usually *AMAS or the like but today it's ESSE, which is the present infinitive of sum.

The Bridge at Narni is an 1826 painting by Jean-Baptiste-Camille COROT.  He is a pivotal figure in landscape painting. His work was a sort of blend of classicism and impressionism. Of him Claude Monet exclaimed in 1897, "There is only one master here, Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing."  And yet I've never even heard of him.

The actress SELA Ward has appeared enough times that I now know her name.

"Trig function" COSEC last appeared nearly a year ago, November 22, 2017.

Professional golfer Michelle WIE was showcased on February 12.

Clever clues: "Round fig." is SPH (sphere).  "Second of April?" is PEE.  "Getting to the point?" is TAPERING.

This puzzle was a rather CEREBRAL challenge, which I enjoyed a lot!  And now for A REST.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 10, 2018

My time: 18:32.


Will Nediger came up with this themeless for Saturday.  It's an okay puzzle, nothing special.  It leans more toward the stodgy and classic than the novel in its fill: ROMAN EMPIRE, OPERETTAS, ZAPATISTA, even TURNERESQUE ("like landscape paintings that focus more on color and lighting than fine detail" --- there's gotta be a better way to clue that).

This clue baffled me: "Smetana composition inspired by a river."  Smetana?  That's Bedřich Smetana to you, sir.  He's a Czech composer who has been called the father of Czech music.  He is best known for his opera "The Bartered Bride" and for the symphonic cycle "Má vlast" ("My Homeland"), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer's native country.  THE MOLDAU is a movement in "Má vlast."  That is the German name for Vltava, the longest river in Czechia.

I disagree that a HOT DATE is a "chemistry test."  A first date might be called a test of chemistry.  When you say "a hot date," you're usually referring to a more sure thing, I think.

"Creature that can walk on lava?"  Is a NENE?  Well, they walk on lava rocks.  Not hot lava.  It's a cheat of a clue, in that really anything that walks can walk on lava rocks.  The nene's feet are adapted for it; they have less webbing that allows them to walk across rough rocks in search of their favorite foods, like red ‘ohelo berries.  Still, it's a lame clue.

I didn't know Harry REID was once an amateur boxer.

Also, I didn't know that name EDNA means... pleasure?  Apparently from the Hebrew for delight, related to the Arabic word for luxury.

We all know what a SEDER is, but I had forgotten about the Four Questions.  A SEDER dinner includes the telling of the Exodus from Egypt.  The Four Questions are: "Why is this night different from all other nights?  On all other nights we eat leavened products and matzoh, and on this night only matzoh.  On all other nights we eat all vegetables, and on this night only bitter herbs.  On all other nights, we don’t dip our food even once, and on this night we dip twice.  On all other nights we eat sitting or reclining, and on this night we only recline."  That's... one question, isn't it?  With four... answers?

The Carolina Panthers mascot is named SIR PURR.  It's so cutesy!  "League leading average of 451 hugs per appearance."

In Japanese restaurants, GYOZA are a kind of dumpling, consisting of wonton wrappers stuffed with pork and cabbage.

"Sierra and others" is GMCS, as I learned on August 8.

Clever clues: "Pole stars?" is STRIPPERS. "Gambler's spot" is PIP.  "What sharks takes interest in" is USURY.  "Pressure group?" is PEERS.  "10-12 on a Little League team, maybe" is AGE RANGE --- I couldn't get shake the idea of a game score.  "Fancy restaurant topping?" is TOQUE.

Like I say, this puzzle wasn't OFFAL, but I also wasn't wowed by it.  It just felt a little stodgy.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 9, 2018

My time: 10:57, not bad!


Robyn Weintraub is the author of this themeless.  It features some impressive and unusual fill, like RETROGRADE, WAITLISTED, WHO GOES THERE, TOURIST TRAP, FUNNEL CAKES, and GLASS CEILING.

Fascinating fact of the week: SEAN'S Bar is Ireland's (Europe's?) oldest pub, as in one thousand years old.  Located in Althone, a town on the Shannon in the very heart of the country, it was once known as Luain's Inn.  Also, Boy George owned it briefly in 1987.

In other alcoholic news, Old Speckled Hen is apparently a brand of ALE, an English premium bitter now owned by the Greene King Brewery.

ELKS, as in the Benevolent Protective Order, has been an answer before, but today we learn that six US presidents have been among their number, including FDR, Truman, JFK, and Ford.

Apparently Interstate 77 runs SSE from Ohio to South Carolina.  That's nice.

"_____ friends" is a terrible, lazy clue for AMONG.

J.J.'s sister on "Good Times" was named THELMA Evans.  Played by intriguingly-named Bern Nadette Stanis, this character was a "daddy's girl" with lots of boyfriends, who eventually married a football player.

"Largest carrier in Japan" ANA arose on June 23.

Clever clues: "High-occupancy vehicles?" is CLOWN CARS.  "Some high-rise constructions" is TREEHOUSES.  "Touchy sort?" is MIDAS.  "Something found near the tongue?" is LACE.  "Ones who find it difficult to go out?" is INSOMNIACS.  "Stop lying" is RISE.

I enjoyed this puzzle!  There was WIT and SENSE aplenty to be found in the clues.  A good solid Friday that happened to fit my knowledge base.  And now, I must AMSCRAY.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 8, 2018

My time: 13:58.


Sam Ezersky takes GO WEST, YOUNG MAN literally in this puzzle.  Four key phrases that end in "lad" (young man, of course) have had that part moved to the west, or leftmost, side of the answer.

"Many a hit by Def Leppard" is power ballad, which now reads as LAD POWER BAL.  "Like medieval knights" is armor-clad, which once the lad has gone west turns out to be LAD ARMOR C.  "Meal served in an edible bowl" is LAD TACO SA.  And finally, a "famously expensive commercial" is of course a Super Bowl ad, but if you young man heeds Horace Greely, it becomes L AD SUPER BOW.

"Put at sea" had me all asea from the start, because it's not literal.  It's ADDLE.  I also had trouble with LAID IN for "stored away."  It still somehow seems off to me.

I'm surprised that a guy who reads as much as I do isn't intimately familiar with Ira LEVIN, the American author of such classics as A Kiss Before Dying, Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives, and The Boys from Brazil.

"NFC North team, to fans" is VIKES.  Who calls them that?  Nobody, I'll bet.

Spaceship Earth is the ride and geodesic sphere at Walt Disney World.

In Carl Jung's conception, the ANIMA is the feminine unconscious of the male psyche, while the animus is the unconscious masculine side of a woman.  There are four stages of the ANIMA --- Eve, Helen, Mary, and Sophia --- representing how the male ego views women, from the object of sexual desire to seeing women as specific human individuals with good and bad qualities.

One of these days I'll write ENOKI in without hesitation.  It last came up on October 3.

The variant spelling of the Egyptian king of the gods AMEN-RA last appeared exactly one year ago today, November 8, 2017.

Clever clues: "Grp. that's well-financed?" is OPEC. "Tag line?" is I'M IT.  "Arm for taking needles, for short?" is DEA --- not quite sure about that one.

There was very little new material, so it must be that the reason this took so long is the jumbled letters of the themed clues.  That's the WAY it is, I suppose.  I did enjoy the wordplay after I figured it out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 7, 2018

My time: 7:09.


Timothy Polin takes us on a whirlwind adventure to PISA, ITALY, where the famous landmark is.  What famous landmark?  Well, four themed answers hint at it: ANGLE FOR ("seek surreptitiously"), TIP SHEETS ("bettors' aids"), TILT AT WINDMILLS, and PITCH OUT.

This last, a "baseball throw that might thwart a squeeze play," was Greek to me, as is "squeeze play."  A PITCH OUT is "a ball that is intentionally thrown high and outside the strike zone with the purpose of preventing a stolen base, thwarting a hit and run, or to prevent a run-scoring play on a suicide squeeze play. The pitcher delivers the ball in such a manner for it to be unhittable and in a position where the catcher can quickly leap to his feet to catch it."  A squeeze play, a.k.a. the squeeze bunt, is basically bunting to get a man on base.  A suicide squeeze is when the runner on third goes for it even before the pitch.

So much tedious baseball.

Back to the grid.  In the middle, sections of grid running down, connected diagonally, spell out LEA / NIN / G TO / WER.  Of Pisa!

CAMELLIA sinensis is a shrub whose leaves and buds are used to make tea.

Coleridge's "The EOLIAN Harp" is a 1795 poem addressed to his future wife, but meditating on man's relationship with nature.

MELD came up as a play in canasta on January 11, but today it's clued as "gin rummy combo."  Melds are groups in rummy also, either three or four of a kind, or sequences of three or more consecutive cards.

Clever clues: "Got ready to run?" is EDITED --- as in run a story in a paper.  "Surfing aid" is WIFI.  "Tribute that may be urned?" is ODE.

Would have done better on this if I knew anything about baseball?  AFRAID SO.  Well, whether EWER doing well or poorly, at least you learn something from the crossword.  This one has a nice theme, very clever grid arrangement, and NOT BAD clues.  And with that, TA-TA.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 6, 2018

My time: 5:28.


Not a bad time, and speaking of time, time to vote the greedy lying nepotistic racist bastards out.  Let the good Lord curse them, with a dreadful murrain, and goiter, and boils on them, yea, verily, even unto their nakedness.

Anyhoo, Alan Southworth and Yacob Yonas (surely that name is made up; it's preposterous) created this affable Tuesday puzzle, which uses my favorite theme subjects ever --- superheroes!  More specifically, it plays with puns on the ALTER EGO of several well known superhumans.  "Superman's fist?" is DUKE OF KENT.  "Iron Man without any clothes," the one that I got right off, is STARK NAKED.  "Batman's water springs?" is FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE --- you have to be both a comics nerd and have a fondness for almost-popular indie rock for this one.  "Spider-Man not minding his business" is NOSY PARKER, which is weak because doesn't play on a double meaning.  Finally, "when the Hulk was born?" is BANNER YEAR, ha ha!

I never gave the Wharton School much thought.  It is the business school at U. PENN.  Established in 1881 through a donation from Joseph Wharton, the Wharton School is the world's oldest collegiate school of business.

Lecterns are in fact not PODIA.  Bad mistake, Alan and Yakob and Will Shortz.

The UGLI clued as a hybrid fruit (of grapefruit, orange, and tangerine) appeared a long while ago, on October 15, 2017.

"Fastener named for its shape" T-NUT has been used a lot.

I remembered the word PASEOS from way back on March 1.  Not bad!

South Carolina's state bird, the Carolina WREN, was spotted on March 7.

Clever clue: "Hot rods?" is POKERS.

Well, that's it for me.  Almost no new concepts.  And without further ADO, I'm off to go watch some of what I can only hope are not terrible, disappointing election results.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 5, 2018

My time: 4:36.


Roland Huget was hungry for success when he made this puzzle, which makes a pun out of SOUND BITES.  Instead of "broadcast news snippets," it refers to onomatopoeia from food items: TOOTSIE POP (misleadingly clued as "chocolaty candy on a stick"), CAP'N CRUNCH, and GINGER SNAP.  It's only missing a crackle to be a noisy cereal theme!

I was not happy with the answer for "guard at an entrance."  I immediately put *BOUNCER.  When it became clear that wasn't going to work, I switched to *DOORMAN, thinking, that's reasonable enough.  But it's... GATEMAN?  That's not anything.  Boo.  Bad answer.  My time would have been much shorter if it hadn't been for this nonsense.

I do like the answers ON THE D.L., GASBAG, and ROADMAP clued as "plan going forward, as for peace."

IN SITU was an answer on January 20, when it was clued as "untouched."  Today, it's reasonably clued with its more demotic definition, "as originally placed."

We dealt with AMINO acid as a protein builder on October 22.

The pigmented layer of the eye, the UVEA, was last seen on September 16.

Clever clue: "slice from a book?" is PAPER CUT.

That's it for the notable answers on my end.  This was a decent attempt at a puzzle.  Easy Monday, with that one LAME answer above.  Did I hate the puzzle?  NOPE.  But I didn't ADORE it either.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sunday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 4, 2018

My time: 21:15.


This is a rarity for a Sunday puzzle, unthemed.  Patrick Berry is the constructor, and he got some very long Across answers in, plus a lot of interesting fill.

"Early reel-to-reel devices" is WIRE RECORDERS.  I'd never heard of these.  Wire recording was the first early magnetic recording technology, an analog type of audio storage in which a magnetic recording is made on thin steel wire. The first crude magnetic recorder was invented in 1898 by Valdemar Poulsen, who called it the Telegraphone.

Marriage Italian Style is a 1968 movie starring Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia LOREN.  He plays a rich man and she is a penniless prostitute.

Tommy DORSEY was a jazz trombonist and band leader.  Jimmy DORSEY,  jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, composer and big band leader, was his older brother.

Farfalle is the Italian word for BOWTIE pasta.  In Italian it means butterflies.

I knew KATIE HOLMES was on "Dawson's Creek," but I didn't know her character's name was Joey Potter.

"Copa América cheer" is of course OLE, but the Copa América is an international football championship, traditionally for South American teams, but today including teams from North America and Asia.

I did not know the slogan for COLGATE, "cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth."

I've never heard of a FIGEATER, "shiny beetle disliked by fruit growers."  A member of the scarab family, it is bright green and feeds primarily on fruits from gardens.

I'm a BEAVIS and Butt-head fan from Day One, literally.  But I could not have told you that they attend Highland High.

I couldn't have told you that Lorenz HART wrote the lyrics to "The Lady is a Tramp," either.  It is from their 1937 musical Babes in Arms.

Most tires are BELTED these days.  Also called radial tires, it is opposed to ply tires.  With bias-belted, there are cords or fiberglass set diagonally to the tread.

"Sister of Tiffany" is IVANKA.  Tiffany, the forgotten Trump.

I've seen the movie Moulin Rouge! but had forgotten the character of Satine, a COURTESAN who dies of consumption.  She is played by Nichole Kidman, who is Aphrodite reborn.

I knew that "copper wheels?" was some kind of pun, probably about police, but I didn't think of the term RADIO CAR meaning police car.

"Torch carrier's announcement" is a terrific clue for I'M IN LOVE.

Julius Caesar's first was was CORNELIA, mother of his daughter Julia.  After thirteen years of marriage, she died, and he married again, to Pompeia, granddaughter of Sulla.

For "US Naval Academy mascot" I put *MULE but it's GOAT.  Bill the Goat!  They are on their 33rd Bill the Goat.  The mule is the West Point mascot.

Apparently a Ford Mustang is a COUPE.  Or a convertible.  You decide which is best.

TD GARDEN came up on September 9.  Today's it's clued as "home arena of the Bruins and Celtics."

A whole truckload of clever clues today:  "Goes to grab a bite, say" is BOBS FOR APPLES.  "Expired IDs?" is TOE TAGS.  "Give mouth to mouth to?" is KISS.  "Case workers?" is PORTERS.  "Travel on-line?" is PARASAIL.  "Party of 13?" is BAR MITZVAH.  "Trunk fastener?" is CORSET.  "You can't go back on them" is ONE-WAY STREETS.  "You should avoid feeding on them" is FAST DAYS.  "Shade in the woods" is FOREST GREEN.  "It may be open for business" is LAPTOP.  "Its shell doesn't crack" is SOFT TACO.  "Pan resistant to aging" is PETER.  "Round units?" is BEERS.

That is a lot!  Whoa!  That's enough to SATE any fact-lovin' scholar.  Well, BYE.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 3, 2018

My time: 12:21.


Ryan McCarty made this Saturday themeless that has two grid-spanning Across entries and some interesting fill.  I didn't dislike it or love it.  That's not a DIG.  It's well-constructed and a nice solid Saturday.

I'm probably one of very few people who knew about Paul Simon and Derek Walcott's musical about a murderer, "The CAPEMAN."  I actually enjoyed the soundtrack.  I applaud his effort; I don't deride something as a prima facie failure just because the masses didn't flock to it.

"Apple _____" can be anything.  I was thinking, Apple Music?  But it's the fruit kind, not the trillion-dollar kind.  Apple CORER.

I've heard of the rapper DMX, but not his mega-selling third album ...And Then There Was X.

Megan RAPINOE is a US soccer player.  She is currently the captain of the Seattle Reign.  She is known for her cross to Abby Wambach during the 2011 World Cup game against Brazil.

Fiddler on the Roof Oscar nominee Chaim TOPOL appeared over a year ago, on October 19, 2017.

"First name of two Wimbledon winners in the 1980s and '90s" is MARTINA.  That's Navratilova, who won the women's singles a record nine times, and Hingis, who won the singles in 1997.

I was not expecting "political organization" to be APPARAT.  What are we, Soviets?

In musical scores, AMOROSO is a direction to play "in a loving manner."  Now how in the hell do you do that?

I only got "C.C. RIDER" because I'm familiar with the title as a "classic blues song."  I didn't identify it from the lyrics.

Never seen the show "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," and had no idea it's on the TBS network.  Very funny.

Clever clues: "Party leader" is EMCEE.  "Jaguar's coat, e.g." is CAR PAINT.  "Nick name" is DORA THE EXPLORER --- well done!  "Company that once had tremendous 'quarterly' profits?" is ATARI.  "Shepherds, in the Bible" is LEADETH.  "Ones not calling the shots?" is ANTI-VAXXERS.  "When to start on a course" is TEE TIME.

This puzzle didn't AMUSE ME, but it wasn't bad either.  Some good fill (STYGIAN), some not great (NON-HERO --- really?  C'MON).

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 2, 2018

My time: 11:00 on the nose.


David Steinberg constructed the Friday themeless, and I just love it!  Check out this dynamic and fresh-faced fill: COME AT ME BRO, OLIVE GARDEN, SLEEP DEBT, THRASH METAL, WET NOODLE, HEATH BARS, VEE DUB ("German wheels"), and NO MEANS NO!

"It might give you a headache" is MSG.  I was expecting a pun, but no.  This is just a straight up dietary warning.

The "ukulele accessory" CAPO is short for capotasto, which is Italian for “head of fretboard”. It is small tool you can strap around the neck of your ukulele to keep all the strings down on the same fret.

In more musical news, a TONE POET is someone who composes a symphonic poem, also called a tone poem.  It is not actual verse, but a piece of orchestral music, usually in a single continuous movement, which illustrates or evokes the content of a poem, short story, novel, painting, landscape, or other (non-musical) source.

In even more musical news, the SAMBA is a Brazilian musical and dance style.  It is clued as "Latin rhythm," which is a bit vague.

"Stubbron Dr. Seuss pair" is THE ZAX, which I am familiar with, but this way of phrasing it gave me some trouble.  I wanted a plural, like Zaxes (?).

I'm not a Harryhead, but I did remember that Harry Potter's girlfriend was CHO Chang from her appearance on January 7.

The ELI Young Band did not sound familiar to me, but lo and behold, their lead singer Mike Eli was an answer way back on January 13!

I first encountered EL-HI on October 29, 2017, nearly exactly one year ago, and I still hate it.

Clever clues: "Tank top" is GAS CAP.  "Belt under the waist?" is LOW BLOW.  "Wasted vacation days?" is BOOZE CRUISE.  "Spot remover?" is AD BLOCKER.  "Establishment to which customers have come for years?" is a rather convoluted way to get to the pun of WINE STORE.  "Clarifier in texts" is more subtle --- it means texts as in scholarly books, so ID EST.

Fun clues, great fill.  This is a premium puzzle, worthy of the New York Times brand.  I'm ready.  GIMME Saturday!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: November 1, 2018

My time: 14:34.


Matt Ginsburg tries to have it both ways (and succeeds!) in this puzzle.  Seven Across answers can be written two ways, because they are two word answers.  Each answer is made of two words that differ by one letter only, but is entered as one word.  Where they differ, that square can contain both letters, because the crossing Down answer is clued in such a way that either spelling fits.

For example: "sound of little feet" is PITTER, or PATTER.  The crossing Down clue is "louver feature," which is SLIT or SLAT.  Another example: "branded candy with multicolored beans" is JELLY or BELLY.  The crossing answer is "take a flier," which is JET, and, also, I learned in writing this, a term that means a BET in which an investor realizes he make take a significant loss.  Final example: "small talk" is CHITTER or CHATTER, and the crossing is "prefix is economics," which of course can be MICRO or MACRO.

The URAL River has appeared a lot in this blog, but today it's clued as "river past Orsk and Orenburg."  Orsk straddles the river, and Orenburg lies on the river next to Kazakhstan.

I did not know that BOA is a genus of snake.  We all know Boa constrictor, but few know Boa imperator.  All hail king boa!

A bridge player's combo is TENACE (spelled like that, all one word!).  I don't know how to play bridge.  A TENACE might not be a ten-ace, but is any combination of two high cards of the same suit separated by two degrees, such as the king and jack of hearts.

McGillin's OLDE Ale House is a historic Philadelphia tavern.  It was established in 1860, making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia.

Did you know that TEA is the chief agricultural export of Kenya?  Me neither.

A TIE ROD is part of a steering system.  Tie rod ends are simple parts that connect the steering rack to the steering knuckle on each front wheel. An adjusting sleeve sits between the inner and outer tire rod ends. When you turn the steering wheel, it transmits that movement through various steering components until the tie rod ends push or pull the wheel and make the wheels turn.

ENRON Field is former home to the Houston Astros.  It is currently called Minute Maid Park.

In the 2006 film Casino Royale, the actress who played Bond's love interest is EVA GREEN, which frankly sounds like the punny name of a Bond girl.  Her actual film name was Vesper Lynd.  Boring!

French artist and designer ERTE last appeared on May 25.

Clever clues: "Something you must be willing to leave?" is ESTATE.  "Them's the breaks!" is ADS.  "3.3, give or take" is B-PLUS.  "Close follower of a team?" is PLOW.  "Something commonly found in a laundry bag" is ODOR.  "Picking up things?" is ESP.  "What's helpful to a degree?" is COLLEGE.

Well, don't I feel like a SCHMO, taking so long to do this puzzle!  Matt Ginsburg, you sure wrote a SPATE of clever clues!