Tuesday, December 18, 2018

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

My time: 6:41.

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Ross Trudeau brings us this stylish puzzle which hangs four clothing-related puns on the phrase FASHION POLICE.  I found this to be a delightful collection of plays on words, with perfectly written clues.  I got the first one right off, even before coming to the capper that pulls it all together: "proper attire for taking fingerprints?" is DUST JACKET.  "Proper attire for picking up a series of clues?" is TRAIL BLAZER.  "Proper attire for detaining a perp?" is HOLDING TANK.  And "proper attire for shadowing a suspect?" is FOLLOW SUIT.

Surprising, clever, amusing... just a very well done Tuesday theme.

Being the most clueless American male about sports, I had never heard of MLB's two AARONS in today's puzzle: Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge.  They're both Yankees!  I have, however, heard of ALONZO Mourning.

Everyone has heard of Twitter Queen Chrissy TEIGEN, but I didn't know she wrote a book called Cravings.

Some vague flicker of a memory from my life as a northeasterner still lingered, and I pulled RARITAN, New Jersey out of it.  This is a borough of about 7,000 people.  It is also the name of a bay and a river.  All of these places are named for the RARITAN people, a branch of the Lenape.

For "black cat running across your path, it is said" I put *BAD LUCK but it's BAD OMEN.  This slowed me down.  Likewise, for "like summers in Washington DC" I put *MUGGY but it's HUMID.  These are tricky for a Tuesday!

Here's a good word: EMERSION.  The opposite of submersion, I suppose.  Defined as the act of emerging, and typically used in astronomy.  But a submarine does it too!

The pull-up muscles LATS were last used on September 14.  Feel the burn!

Mauna KEA, the tallest mountain in Hawaii, comes up a lot.

The bat for hitting practice fly balls is called a FUNGO, which popped up on April 8.

"Arkansas River city" is TULSA, and this tidbit of Tulsian trivia was last seen way back on November 10, 2017.

As I said above, I loved this theme.  Great puns, with a great capper.  The time today was slow, but not exceptionally so.  I didn't FLAIL around a lot, but I might need a REST AREA now.

Monday, December 17, 2018

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

My time: 3:30, a new record by one full second!

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You can't say that Brian Thomas and Andrea Carla Michaels don't know jack.  Based on this puzzle, they obviously do --- more than one Jack, even.  And they greet them all, with a hearty, commandeering HIJACKS.  Where are these Jacks?  In the first word of four themed answers:

"Small bird of prey" is SPARROWHAWK, where a fictional pirate is found.  We find an author of canine adventure stories in LONDON BRIDGE, an assassin in RUBY SLIPPERS, and a singing comedian in BLACK FRIDAY.

Well done, every man jack of us all!

A SURREY is a carriage that shares its name with an English county.  I have always been a fan of the wide variety of carriage names there are: landau, phaeton, brougham, fiacre, jinker, stanhope, tilbury, etc.  Aren't those great?

Anyway, I raced through this one, as if on the wheels of a hackney.  Instances of ever-faster times are becoming RARER as I reach my maximum brain power limit, but this shows I am still ABLE to better myself when I RISE to the occasion.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzle solved: December 12, 2018

My time: 9:42, very slow but still just under the average.

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David J. Kahn must be a classic rock fan.  In this puzzle that celebrates QUEEN, he teaches us that they played LIVE AID / BENEFIT / CONCERT in 1985, and that the iconic frontman's name is FREDDIE / MERCURY.  As if that weren't enough, circled squares at the top and bottom, when assembled over three answers each, spell out BO / HEMI / AN and RH / APSO / DY.

Figaro!  By the way we also have the 1977 album AJA in th grid, for more classic rock goodness.

Anyhoo, CABO San Lucas is a resort in Baja California.  I've never been.  To Mexico.

Italian physicist Bruno ROSSI worked on cosmic rays.  During World War II, Rossi worked on radar at the MIT Radiation Laboratory, and he played a pivotal role in the Manhattan Project, heading the group at the Los Alamos Laboratory that carried out the RaLa Experiments.

I could have sworn this has come up before, but I can't find it in the archives: a slang term for a home run is TATER.

I wasn't sure whether "Sevastopol's locale" would be *RUSSIA or CRIMEA.  Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.  So it's the Ukraine, or was.  Damn commies.

"Benchmark figure given how old a person is" is AGE NORM.  That's a tough one to get.

Did you know Christian DIOR said "My dream is to save women from nature"?  In Newsweek, 1957.

ETYMA is a new one to me.  It's the plural of etymon, meaning a root word or an earlier form of a word in the same language.

The STRAIT of Hormuz, near the Persian Gulf, was showcased on September 5.

The mushroom ENOKI keeps coming up.

EVIE Wilcox, a character in Howards End, appeared on February 6.

Clever clues: "Choice words" is AND / OR.  "Subject of a spot check?" is ZIT.  "Went platinum?" is DYED.  "Rash decision?" is TALC.

Scaramouche, scaramouche, can you do the fandango?  This was a fun puzzle, though slow going for me.  I did NAZI all those QUEEN references coming.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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

My time: 4:43.

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Amanda Chung and Karl Ni got together to compile this puzzle.  It's a bit of a recycled idea, from yesterday's the plot thickens.  Today it's all about the COMPOST BIN.  For phrases that belong in there are SHELL SHOCK, PEEL OUT, GROUNDS CREW, and PIT BOSS.

For "visit on a whim" I put *POP IN but it's POP BY.  I thought "real estate measurement" would be SQ. FT. but it's AREA.

They do say that larghissimo is the SLOWEST of all the musical tempos.

A NEGAWATT is, sadly, only theoretical.  It is the hypothetical amount of energy saved through conservation or efficiency.  Thus the nega- prefix.  Negative power.

Dutch painter Jan STEEN appeared December 19, 2017.

Tony winner AUDRA McDonald was last spotlighted on May 16.

Another fun, easy puzzle with nearly nothing new for me.  It was SUPER for a Tuesday.  And now ADIEU.

Monday, December 10, 2018

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

My time: 5:27.

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Alex Eylar carefully cultivated this puzzle, which plays on the phrase THE PLOT THICKENS.  Four themed answers riff on plot as in a garden plot: DIRT CHEAP, GRASS ROOTS, BUSH LEAGUE, and JUNGLE GYM ("bars that kids go to?").  Note how they get progressively thicker vegetation in order.

I thought "Texas city seen in many westerns" would be *EL PESO, but it's LAREDO.

"Sacred peak in Greek myth" is MT. IDA, which was last spotted on April 26.

Clever clue: "Pop a fly?" is SWAT.

Say, why did this take so long?  I knew everything.  I should have done it in a JIF.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

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

My time: 17:47, just one minute too slow for the record!

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Ross Trudeau collected a series of cryptids from divers geographical areas in this one.  "What a Zoo" it is, at that.  The areas and the cryptids are both in the puzzle, linked by clue.

So, for example, one clue says "cryptid of the 91 Across," and is ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN.  91 Across is HIMALAYAS, of course.  The clue itself is tricky, though: "creation after the Indian and Eurasian plated collided."  Know your prehistorical geographical activity!

LOCH NESS MONSTER is a cryptid of the SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS, while THE KRAKEN is a cryptid of THE NORWEGIAN SEA ("it borders Iceland's eastern coast"). 

It's very admirable how these long answers are worked into the puzzle, but it's all pretty straightforward.  No trickery or jumbling.  But I was delighted to find an extremely apt capper in the center of the puzzle.  "J.K. Rowling's first screenplay" is also what this puzzle is all about: FANTASTIC BEASTS / AND / WHERE TO FIND THEM.  Sweet!

And now, the fill.  A lot of this fortuitously happened to be in my wheelhouse, so most of the trouble I had was with my own initial wrong answers.

A word that's new to me is RESECT, which means to perform a resection on.  Which means to surgically remove an organ or structure.

Another new word is NEROLI, an essential oil derived from the Seville orange, used in perfumery.

Barbie has a sister with strawberry blonde hair, I guess?  Maybe light brown? Her name is STACIE.  And Barbie has other sisters?  And her last name is Roberts?  There's a whole world out there.

For "when crepuscular animals are active" I put *DUSK but it's DAWN.  What a cheat!

Know your capitals!  The capital of Kazakhstan is ASTANA.

A cupboard with open shelves at the top is called a HUTCH.  I never knew that.

I speak a little German, but I guess I forgot that ECHT means "genuine, true, real."

ISLA Fisher is an actress known for her role in Wedding Crashers, but I know her as Rebel Alley in "Arrested Development."

SHALE OIL is oil obtained from bituminous shale through the process of pyrolysis.  But what's that?  Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere.

I have not heard of Massimo CARLOTTO, or his book The Goodbye Kiss.  Exciting fact: Carlotto was found guilty of murder and spent time in prison before being pardoned.

For "silent communication, for short" I put *ESP, ha ha!  I'm dumb.  It's ASL.

VASSAR is located in Poughkeepsie.  Hooray?

Speaking of locations, I had no idea that Swansea was in Wales.  It doesn't have a bunch of w's, y's, and l's in it!  Anyway, if you're from Swansea you're WELSH.

"Best seller subtitled The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English" is WOE IS I.  This was featured on September 11.  However, I forgot this, and put in *WOE AM I, because for the crossing "hobbles" I put *LAMES.  But it's LIMPS.  Ugh!

Another crossing of this answer was "2007 #1 Alicia Keys album," and I forgot that too: AS I AM.  This was shown on July 7.

URAL as a Risk territory appeared on December 13, 2017.

Rising star inventor ELISHA Otis last appeared on October 10.

St. ANNE, mother of the Virgin Mary, last appeared to the faithful on November 30, 2017.

NFL Hall of Famer Junior SEAU was last showcased on July 30.

TAOS Ski Valley was explored on September 21.

Clever clues: "Starbuck's order giver" is AHAB.  "Cabinet selection?" is FILE.  "'Happy Birthday' writer, maybe" is ICER.  'It's not your fault" is LET.  "Fast time" is LENT.  "Return letters?" is IRS.  "Person who's happy to go bust?" is NARC.  "Breather" is LUNG.

This was one of the fastest Sunday times in a while!  I'm proud.  I won't STU over a bad time tonight.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: December 8, 2019

My time: 20:20.

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Trenton Charlson and David Steinberg teamed up for this Saturday, which has no theme but features some pretty tricky and vague cluing!

For example, "out and about" is OPENLY GAY.  "Like Wonder Woman" is PG-THIRTEEN.  "Film villain with one eye" is HAL.  These aren't jokes, just cleverly vague.  This one is ridiculously vague: "post masters?"  That's SYSOPS.  System operators, who create posts on a blog.  Yikes.

I had no idea that the SABLE is a predator of the ermine.  I kind of think of them as the same thing.  Yet, there it is.  The sable tends to hunt small mammals and birds, and at times will even fish. Along with their high meat diets, sables also eat other protein-rich foods such as eggs, as well as a small amount of various berries and plants.

For "access to the slopes" I put *SKI LIFT but it's SKI PASS.  "John, overseas" is sometimes *LOO or *LAV but today it's IAN.

STEEL BLUE, "color achieved during tempering," doesn't appear to be a phrase actual blacksmiths use.

I've never seen MEAN GIRLS, but I guessed it immediately, because what other 2004 movie would have a clique called the Plastics?

It makes sense that Eric CLAPTON is the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I thought it might be George *CLINTON at first.

For "second-oldest national currency" I put *RUPEE but it's RUBLE, in use since the 13th century. The English pound is the oldest, having been in use since the 8th century.  The ruble is the oldest decimal currency.

The SARGASSO is a sea with no land boundaries, being actually a patch of the Atlantic Ocean, and named for a genus of free-floating seaweed called sargassum.

"2016 WNBA champs, informally" is LA SPARKS.  The Sparks have qualified for the WNBA Playoffs in sixteen of their twenty years in Los Angeles, more than any other team in the league. Why is "informally" in the clue, though?  isn't that their name?

The Greek letter TAU has come up a few times in this blog, but today it's clued as one "that once symbolized life and resurrection."  Mysticism!

For "2012 Nobel peace prize recipient, informally" I had a few letters: THE_U.  So, perhaps influenced by the "Dien Bien PHU" crossing it, my mind went to Vietnamese names:  *THIEU?  But no.  It's THE E.U.

I was not challenged by OONA CHAPLIN, who plays Talisa Maegyr on "Game of Thrones," because she has come up at least twice before.

Clever clues: "It follows directions" is ERN, which baffled me for a long time.  Then I realized it's the suffix for actual directions, as in northern.  "Really clicks with a partner, say?" is TAP DANCES.  "Plot device?" is HOE.  "Some Lord of the Rings characters" is RUNES, the other type of character.  "Forger's mark?' is ART DEALER.  "Long division?" is EON.  "Cool air?" is HIPNESS --- that's a good one.

This was a slowish time for a Saturday.  Those clues were just so tricky!  THANKS, OBAMA.

Friday, December 7, 2018

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

My time: 11:15, pretty good for a Friday.

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Sam Trabucco brings us this themeless.  It's got some modern fill to it, like MUNCHIES, DECEPTICON, EBOLA SCARE, SHEEPLE, and IKEA CATALOG.  I enjoy the grid arrangement that shows off a quartet of three long answers in a row.

I've vaguely heard of ELI Roth, producer and director of horror movies.  I detest horror movies.

I'm not familiar with the portmanteau WIIMOTES, knowing it only as the Wii Remote.  I'm not a video game guy.

"They, in Portugal" is ELAS.  That's the feminine they, by the way.  I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect solvers to know basic Portuguese.

Did you know U. CONN is an NCAA hoops powerhouse?  Their mascot is the Huskies.  The Huskies have won 4 NCAA Tournament Championships, the sixth-most all-time wins.  The Huskies have also won many other championships.  The team has been a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament five times.  Go Husks!

"Base of some aquaculture farms" is SEED OYSTERS.  I vaguely remembered that on September 14, 2017, seed pearls was an answer and wondered if there was a connection.  There isn't.  Oyster "seed" is just an oyster that is transplanted to another location for the purposes of commercial grow-out or restoration.

Here's a crossword puzzle name for you: UZO ADUBA, a Nigerian-American actress who plays "Crazy Eyes" Warren in Orange is the New Black.

I'm not sure I agree that ALAS means "Ah, well, we tried."

ASHCAKE, a Southern cornbread baked in ashes, last popped up on July 15.

The PEE DEE River, which runs through the Carolinas, was first explored on September 22.

Clever clues: "Total taken in?" is CEREAL.  "Major suit" is CEO.  "Running numbers?" is RACING BIBS.  "Partner for life" is LIMB.  "Solo flying?" is HAN.  "Higher education?" is SKI LESSONS.

This went by fast-ish, but it wasn't a superior finish.  I will one day beat my Friday record set in July of this year.  DO YOU HEAR ME? Or maybe NOT A CHANCE?  I dunno.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Thursday's New York Times crossworld puzzle solved: December 6, 2018

My time: 8:52, very close to the record!

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Sophia Maymudes has us feline fine with this [CAT]-themed rebus.  Where do some house pets go?  LITTER BOXES, or maybe... letter boxes?  They go "diagonally," or KITTY-CORNER.  That means, you guessed it, CAT goes into the four corners.

This makes [CAT]TLE ("things driven on ranches") crossed with [CAT]ALOG, MUS[CAT] crossed with COPY[CAT], and so on.  One that was a little harder to guess was [CAT]ER because of the long vowel sound.   In all, it's a purr-fectly clever theme, not too hard but initially puzzling.

Meow let's put a paws on the cat puns.

For "put on" I thought of the meaning *ACTED but it's AIRED.

I thought "what thirsty flowers do" is a great clue for WILT.

Did you know RNA is single-stranded, while DNA is double-stranded?

For "ingredient in many a breakfast cereal" I put *RYE but it's DYE, as in kid's colored cereals.  This slowed me down some.

Did you know New Jersey was originally named NOVA Caesarea?

How is a NOOSE an alternative to a guillotine?  That doesn't chop your head off.

"Ski resort vehicle" is SNO-CAT.  Their logo is a cat with an orange scarf.

The Latin word for road, ITER, came up on August 16.

I remembered that Lily Potter's maiden name had come up before, but I forgot what it was.  It's EVANS, as seen on the July 1 post.

Other than the slim scatterings of uncertainty above, I had very little trouble with this one!  But Friday's coming!  DON'T PANIC.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

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

My time: 12:56, two minutes slower than average.

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Alan Arbesfeld brings us this sophisticated and worldly Wednesday challenge.

Despite my slow time, I loved this puzzle.  What a clever and funny theme!  "Organization honored on October 24" is UNITED NATIONS, so some themed answers are country names.  But not just any series of country names: as clued, they spell out funny phrases!  So IRAN OMAN ICELAND is clued as "you can't bring in a crazed antelope, Mr. Glass!" so you read it as IRA, NO MANIC ELAND!  That's hilarious.

"Wrigley Field's beer boycott goes into effect" is CUBA LEBANON, or CUB ALE BAN ON.  "Mother isn't straight with actress Vardalos" is MALI ESTONIA or MA LIES TO NIA.   Last and perhaps most clunkily, "suffering caused by reader prejudice" is PERU SERBIA SPAIN, or as clued, PERUSER BIAS PAIN.

For "title woman in a 1976 Dylan song" I put *SARA and felt very smug for being a Bob-lover from way back, but it's ISIS.  "Sara" is from Desire, the same album as "ISIS."  So close!

For "couples" I put *PAIRS but it's DYADS.  This was beginning to be a bit hard for a Wednesday.

We all know Amenable Ed Koch, but I didn't know he wrote a memoir called Mayor.

"Venetian basilica eponym" is ST. MARK's, located at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco.  Adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace, it was originally the chapel of the Doge, and has been the city's cathedral since 1807.

One of the main characters in the book Uncle Tom's Cabin is ELIZA Harris, a devout Christian slave who runs away when she hears her son is to be sold.  Her crossing of the Ohio River, leaping from ice floe to ice floe, is one of the most memorable images in the book.

Never heard of Dame CLEO Laine, British jazz and pop singer famed for her scat singing.  Laine is the only female performer to have received Grammy nominations in the jazz, popular and classical music categories.   As of this writing she is still alive at age 91.

Jackie Robinson's alma mater is UCLA.  That's nice.

"Stat for which lower is better" is ERA.   This was discussed on February 22.

Civil rights activist LANI Guinier appeared way back on November 12, 2017.

IONIA, that "ancient land on the Aegean Sea," last appeared on September 3.

"Big Island coffee" is KONA, which was last seen on July 9.

Whew, this one took a while!  Even so, I really enjoyed finishing it.  I made a few mistakes trying to solve it.  UGANDA blame me?  NAH.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

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

My time: 4:47.

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Peter Gordon makes us all super solvers with this puzzle, which celebrates... uh, the SS?  Probably not.  But the theme is phrases with two words that both start with S, so whether there's a reason or not, there it is.  Best crossword in the solar system?  Or the seven seas?  I wouldn't go that far.  It's fun and I learned something, though.

One phrase I'm not too familiar with is SAMPLE SALE, a "clothing store event to get rid of excess merchandise."

One answer that I had totally forgotten about is SYLVIA SIMS, a jazz cabaret and pop singer.  She is often confused with the British actress of the same name.  She was featured on this blog way back on November 18, 2017.  Here she is clued as having been given the nickname "Buddha" by Frank Sinatra.

The other themed answers are SECRET SERVICE, SOMEDAY SOON, SIMPLE SIMON, AND "SUDDENLY SUSAN."

It's Carl ICAHN again!  I remembered him this time.

Clever clues: "Good name for a dyslexic neurosurgeon?" is BRIAN.  "Word before cells or sells" is SEX.  "Hot Chocolate or Vanilla Fudge" is BANDS.  "Bye at the French Open?" is AU REVOIR.  "Where the buoys are" is SEA.

This was a quick and fun puzzle.  I especially liked the fun but easy joke clues, perfect for a Tuesday.  Veyr good time for me, too.  NEXT!

Monday, December 3, 2018

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

My time: 4:27.

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After a crushing week of Did Not Finishes and Could Not Finishes, it's a new day and a new month here at My New York Times Crossword Puzzle Times.  Lynn Lempel starts us off with a puzzle that attempts to be a feat of derring-do but appears to put its foot in deep doo.

I'll explain.

The four themed answers ostensibly all end in homophones of the word do.  SCOOBY DOO, MORNING DEW, NO CAN DO, and POSTAGE DUE.  But last comes PAS DE DEUX, which ends, of course, in the sound /deuh/, not /dū/.  So that's kind of a fail.

The only totally new thing featured in today's puzzle is the Indy racers Al and Bobby UNSER.  They are part of a large and long lineage of racecar drivers.  Bobby UNSER is the son of driver Louis Unser (1896-1979).  He is one of ten drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three or more times and one of only two to have won the 500 in three different decades (1968, '75, and '81).  He has a brother named Al UNSER, who in turn as a son and grandson also named Al, who are also racecar drivers.

Another sort-of-new but easy-to-guess word was BIMODAL, meaning "having or involving two modes, in particular (of a statistical distribution) having two maxima," or in other words, "like a probability curse with two peaks."

On January 3, we learned that William INGE won a Pulitzer for his play "Picnic."  Today we learn that he also wrote "Bus Stop."  Talented fellow, that INGE.

A SINE, as everyone knows if they read this blog on November 15, 2017, is the ratio of the length of the side opposite one of the acute angles of a right triangle to the length of the hypotenuse.

The ASCOT racecourse is south of Windsor Castle, as noted on January 16

TV journalist ANN Curry appeared on August 13

And we're off to a fast start this week!  Let's see if I can keep up this pace, like an Unser.  I'm AZURE as can be that tougher puzzles are around the BEND.