Thursday, January 31, 2019

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 31, 2019

My time: 11:54.

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Peter A. Collins got this puzzle published on the wrong day!  (That seems to happen a lot.)  It defines the numerical Down answer 212 three ways: NEW YORK'S AREA CODE, LINCOLN'S BIRTHDAY, and H20'S BOILING POINT.

The other two answers that cross 212 are A-1 STEAK SAUCE and W-2S ("some IRS forms").

For "homing in on" I put *ZOOMING but it's ZEROING.

The answer ANI has come up a few times, but never before as the black carnivorous New World bird of the cuckoo family.

"Number between cinque and sette" is SEI.  That's seven.  I don't parlo italiano!

Apparently there's a Democratic Socialists of America, and they have a logo.  It features two clasped hands under a ROSE.  In November 2018, two DSA members, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, were elected to the United States House of Representatives, and 11 were elected to state legislatures.

"Capital on the Dnieper" is KIEV.  The Dnieper is the largest river in the Ukraine.

ELY is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England.  The city and abbey were founded in 673, later destroyed by Danish invaders.  It was gradually rebuilt over the centuries.

I've never heard of the Elton John song "NIKITA," from his 1985 album Ice on Fire.  I'm not sure I've missed much.

BRANDI Chastain is a Wold Cup- and Olympic-winning women's soccer player, probably best known for celebrating her 1999 Wold Cup victory by whipping off her jersey.  Oh, the scandal!  I may faint.

Summation symbol SIGMA was first investigated on March 15, 2018.

Clever clues: "Leaves after dinner?" is TEA.  "Commercial lead-in to film" is LUCAS --- that's not a pun, but an admirably oblique clue.  "Development sites" is WOMBS.

This was a fun puzzle.  The welcome surprise of the digits and the long theme answers made this one an unusual challenge.  I really dislike the spelling TE-HEE for tee-hee, but other than that, this was a well-made, COHERENT Thursday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 30, 2019

My time: 9:20.

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Blame Emily Carroll for this extremely tough Wednesday puzzle (it certainly can't be my fault; I'm a teacher).  I quite enjoyed the theme, which is FRUITLESS ("unproductive").  This means that several themed answers feature fruit and then a synonym for "taking away."  The best examples of this, and I'm sure the first ones Carroll thought of, are GRAPE LEAVES and BANANA / SPLITS.  After that it gets less clever: LEMON / DROPS and ORANGE PEELS (as in peels out, maybe?).

Aside from the theme, I had some trouble.

Things started off badly after I stupidly put *ABU for "Aladdin prince."  Obviously, it's ALI.

I had to guess at sandal feature T-STRAP.

I've never heard of science and engineering school RPI, or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, located in Troy, New York.  The institute was established in 1824 for the "application of science to the common purposes of life" and is described as the oldest technological university in the English-speaking world.

Wedding gown designer INES De Santo is not in my wheelhouse.  The fashion line was founded in 1984.

The clue "_____ Beanies (bygone toys)" made me think of Beanie Babies, but I couldn't make any connection past that.  It's TEENIE Beanies, which are a small version of Beanie Babies.

"Seaport near Buenos Aires" had me drawing a total blank.  I had to guess at the letters.  It's LA PLATA, capital of Buenos Aires Province.  This city is drawn up as a rectangular grid with diagonal streets, and so is known as "city of diagonals."

More South American information I had no idea about: AREPAS, a kind of corn cake popular in Columbia and Venezuela.

"Add, as an extra" turns out to be TAG ON.  I didn't like this answer at all.  Tack on, I've heard of.  TAG ON doesn't seem to mean added on.  And yet, there it is.

"Air race marker" was just three unrelated words to me.  Turns out to be PYLON. These are used to define the course in the Red Bull Air Race.   Here is an explainer.

SHAD as a fish ("roe source") appeared on August 18, 2018.

Judges' seat BANC appeared on October 29, 2017.

Clever clues: "Something divided in WWII" is ATOM.  "Body image, briefly" is TAT (I thought it might be *MRI).  "Super conductor?" is MAESTRO.

Whew!  This had a few too many unknowns for my comfort.  I DID NOT speed through this one.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 29, 2019

My time: 6:43.

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Benjamin Kramer serves us up an ace of a puzzle with this VOLLEYBALL-loving grid.  The themed answers LIP SERVICE, the COLBERT BUMP, TELEVISION SET, and GOLDEN SPIKE all showcase volleyball terms in their final word.  Also, perhaps coincidentally, the words A NET appear directly under SPIKE and over the word VOLLEYBALL.

I don't like the answer MEOWS for "sounds from a pet owner's lap."  It seems much more realistic for the sounds to be *PURRS.

Alfred ADLER was one of my least favorite psychiatrists when I was taking pfreshman psychology.  He was last seen on this blog on February 22, 2018.

Pulitzer prize-winning author James AGEE was showcased on November 13, 2017.  He is known for writing the autobiographical novel A Death in the Family.  Today he is clued as the screenwriter of The African Queen.  Agee's career as a movie scriptwriter was curtailed by his alcoholism. Nevertheless, he wrote both that classic and The Night of the Hunter (1955).

HIGH-LOW is the answer today for a poker variant in which the worst and best hands split the pot.  On November 18, 2018, this appeared as hi-lo.

Nothing truly new this time around, but there were some long answers and a couple of things I needed reminding of.  Nothing particularly clever in the cluing, but a well-executed theme.

Well, BYE.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 28, 2019

My time: 4:54.

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Thomas Van Geel celebrates the crowdfunding site KICKSTARTER in this puzzle.  The three themed entries, admirable inclusions all, are FREECYLING, SIDE HUSTLE ("extra job in the gig economy"), and DROP THE MIC.  The kicker here is that all three start with a kick: free kick, sidekick, and dropkick.

I'm not a clothes hound, fashion plate, or sneaker head.  So I had a hard time spelling FILAS.

For ex-senator ____ Bayh I initially put *ERIN.  It's EVAN Bayh, Democratic governor and senator from Indiana.

The Greek alphabet comes up often enough that I ought to at least try to remember some of it.  Second letter after epsilon? Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, ETA, theta, iota, kappa.

And second letter after upsilon?  CHI.  Upsilon, phi, chi, psi, omega.

I have never heard of the OLIVETTI, an Italian manufacturer of typewriters, tablets, smartphones, and computers.

Broccoli RABE last came up on October 17, 2018.

LYE was clued as NaOH on October 28, 2017.

Today's time was nothing to SMIRK AT, but my AIM is to do better.  Well, SHALOM.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Saturday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 26, 2019

My time: 10:52

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Grant Thackray is the evil genius behind this fairly tough Saturday themeless.  Curse you, Grant Thackray!  Well, that's going too far.  I really enjoyed the inclusion of IT'S-A ME, MARIO; GENIE OF THE LAMP; and "MONSTER MASH."

I was going to start off by crying foul about WORLD BEATERS ("they're better than all the rest"), but it turns out this really is a term, just not in my wheelhouse.

Not being much of a drinker these days, I haven't heard of an ALABAMA SLAMMER.  It contains  Southern Comfort, amaretto, orange juice and sloe gin.

"Lead-in to science" had me a-head-scratchin'.   It's OMNI, like omniscience.  Ha!  The different pronunciation makes it hard to parse.

Here is the Esquires' 1967 #11 pop hit "Get ON UP."  They deserve to be better known.

Czech composer Bedřich SMETANA was investigated on November 10, 2018, during which I discovered that his best known work is "The Bartered Bride."

Never heard of BECCA Fitzpatrick, author of Hush, Hush.

Giovanni RIBISI was in Avatar and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but I know him as "Sneaky Pete."

Did you know there was a city and county in Missouri called STE Genevieve?  Me neither.   Ste. Geneviève (to use the French spelling) is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri.

The Calder Cup is the AHL Championship Award, as explained on January 2, 2018.

Clever clues: "Food that's eaten perpendicularly to how it's usually made" is TOAST.  "Big name in weaponry" is BERTHA.  "Short cut that bypasses a canal?" is CAESAREAN SECTION. "Workers making preparations to retire?" is PIT CREW.  "A sidecar may be added to it" is BAR TAB.

This was a tough one.  Time to BE STILL.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 25, 2019

My time: 14:06

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Blame Zhouqin Burnikel for this tough themeless.  Although I did beat my average Friday time, it wasn't a walk in the park.  Lots of initialisms and people I didn't know, coupled with some vague cluing, made time my enemy this time around.

I read "warning about a racket" as something a parent might say to loud kids, but racket here means a con, so it's SCAM ALERT.

TRUE TO SIZE ("not running small or large, in a clothing store") isn't a phrase much in my wheelhouse, but it's definitely an extant fashion term.

And how am I supposed to know that either Neil Armstrong or Steven Spielberg was an EAGLE SCOUT as a teen?  Is that some crucial part of their biography?  "Like many of today’s Scouts, Neil Armstrong kept earning merit badges beyond the 21 required for Eagle.  He finished with 26 merit badges in all."  That's nice.

"Stern competitor, once" also threw me.  It's a long time since I was forced to think about the existence of Don IMUS, and I didn't read Stern as Howard.

"ATTA way!" are "words of congratulation"?  Uh, no.  I object.

I have never heard of ADP, a payroll service company.

Likewise I have never heard of NEC, an information technology giant based in Tokyo.  The company was known as the Nippon Electric Company, Limited, before rebranding in 1983 as NEC.

Even after I had three of the four letters, I held off on COLA as an answer to "Pez flavor."  I couldn't believe it, but there it is.

A-ROD is a "longtime Yankee teammate of Sandman," but who is Sandman?  Mariano Rivera, who pitched for 19 seasons for the Yankees, and named for the Metallica song that he likes as entrance music.

More baseball: RYNE Sandberg, nicknamed Ryno, a second baseman for the Phillies and the Cubs.

Yet more baseball: I didn't know that Willie Mays wore #24.

Meng-TZU is an out-dated way to spell Mengzi, or Mencius as he is sometimes called in the west.  The NYT puzzle is kind of crappy with Chinese names.

The Gulf of RIGA is a bay of the Baltic Sea bordering Estonia and Latvia.

I've vaguely heard of the cookware brand CALPHALON, but it's hard to remember all those letters.

NO PAR value stock is stock that has been issued with no par value.  Par value is the price at which a company's shares were initially offered for sale.

1995 US Open winner COREY Pavin was also PGA Player of the Year in 1991.  A relatively minor sports figure, I think?

Clever clues:  "Covered some ground quickly?" is RAN TRACK.  "Draft pick" is STEIN --- that's a good one.  "Arms provider?" is ESCORT.   "Org chart topper" befuddled me with its lack of punctuation --- it's CEO.

Well, I STAVED off a loss against my average time, but this was still a slog.  Blah.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: Janary 24, 2019

My time: 11:02.

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Stu "Doc" Ockman has us taking a good long look at this puzzle, which I identified very quickly as a rebus  (Unfortunately, solving on the phone is not conducive to quickly filling out rebus squares.)  Double O's are placed in a single square, giving these squares the appearance of G[OO]-G[OO] EYES, apparently, or at least to Ockman. He really loves this puzzle!

New word alert: REGINAL, meaning made or relating to a queen.

The Verdi opera AIDA has come up a lot, but I don't think I've noted before that the title character is buried alive!  In an Egyptian tomb with her love, not in a dirt pit.

Did you know a BASS[OO]N opens Stravinksy's "Rite of Spring?"  Me neither.

The Indian word DESI means indigenous, as in a native animal, but is also used to mean a South Asian living abroad.

Never heard of EVA Air, a Taiwanese airline.  It stands for Evergreen Airways.  As of January 2018, EVA Air is the 15th safest airline in the world, with no hull losses, accidents, or fatalities since its establishment.

MOUSSAKA showed up as a clue on August 9, 2017, when I looked it up.

Iona College and its Fightin' GAELS have come up before.

Clever clue: "One stuck abroad?" is V[OO]D[OO] DOLL.  "Raiders' org." is ATF, as seen on May 27, 2018.  "It can make an impression in correspondence" is SEAL.  "On the blue side, for short" is DEM.  "Clay, after conversion" is ALI, which seems obvious in retrospect, but I was stuck on the effect of a kiln on clay.  "Call to reserve?" is LET, if you pronounce it with a long E and a /s/.  "Ones pumped up for a race?" is TIRES.

That's it for me!  I didn't exactly do this IN A FLASH, but as I said, rebuses are always a pleasant surprise, but they go slowly.  I don't want to be CRITICAL; this was a fun puzzle. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 23, 2019

My time: 7:22.

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Amanda Chung and Karl Ni teamed up to bring us a GENDER NEUTRAL puzzle.  I didn't understand the theme even after solving a couple of themed answers.  Then it hit me: phrases that end in the usually feminine ending -ress have been replaced by the ending -er.

So "maternity ward worker who counts each day's births?" is DELIVERY ADDER.  "Dairy item thrown in a food fight?" is FLYING BUTTER.  And "dynamite?" is BLOW-UP MATTER.  Ha!

If you don't laugh at that, you're a CRAB ("grouch").

For "Miller ____" I wanted to put *TIME but it's LITE.

The Great pope ST. LEO last appeared, as Leo I, on August 11, 2017.

LET ON was clued as "pretend" on February 1, 2018.

And... that's it?  No new information?  It was only the pretty abstruse theme that held me up?  SADLY, yes.  Well, poo.   LEMME try again another day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tuesday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 22, 2019

My time: 7:55 ---I had some trouble

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John E. Bennett and Jeff Chen, who clearly work only with people who have double letters in their names, created this puzzle that would ADVISE you to WATCH YOUR STEP.  The four corners of the puzzle each has a length of circled letters going down, diagonal and across, spelling the name of a poisonous snake.  Once the puzzle is filled in, these read king cobra, sidewinder, puff adder, and king cobra, from northwest corner clockwise.

A quick nod to MLK JR in first Across answer, and we're off!

I had a few wrong answers that tripped me up.  For "glider measurement" I put *WING TO WING*, then *WING TO HEAD (??), until finally settling on WINGSPREAD.  For "close calls" I confidently wrote *SHAVES but it's SCARES.  I like my answer better.   "Contents of a poker pot" is obviously CHIPS, but I put *KITTY and then *ANTES.  Sometimes stubbornness is the crossword solver's downfall.  And finally, for "damage, as a reputation," I put *MAR and it's TAR.

Here's a neologism that slowed me down quite a bit: TWIBE, a "certain close-knit social media group."  This word barely has its eyes open, it's so new.  I honestly thought the puzzle had made a mistake.

St. Petersburg, Florida, known to its buddies as ST. PETE, apparently holds the American record for the most consecutive days of sunshine, with 768.  Don't we all wish we lived there?

For "auto company since 1899" I put *FORD for a hot second, but it's FIAT.  Ford was founded in 1903.

ROSCOE Lee Browne is an actor and director whose name isn't known to me, but his face is familiar, and I know I have seen him on "Soap" as Saunders, the butler.

The DURA mater is a membrane that envelops the brain and spinal cord, underneath the skull.

Yankee legend Joe TORRE last appeared on October 9, 2018.

Clever clue: "Wall St. starter" is IPO.  "Ore, for one?" is TYPO.

And that's the FINAL answer I'll go over for Tuesday. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday's New York Times crossword puzzle solved: January 21, 2019

My time: 5:16, a little rusty.

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This Martin Luther King Monday, Sean Biggins embiggens the smallest mind with this puzzle celebrating CIVIL RIGHTS leaders.  Their names are found the last word of the phrases FIT FOR A KING, NATIONAL PARKS, and THE WHOLE TRUTH.

I was held up by having a total brain-burp and quickly writing in *DAD for "Luke, to Darth Vader."  And then I didn't notice until I finished the puzzle and it told me something was wrong.  It's SON, of course, for those who choose to parse the clues correctly.  I also had (and have) a hard time with the answer SKETCH UP for "make a quick drawing of."  That's not a real phrase!

There were also two unknown sports guys, and as I have stated many times, I am the most clueless man in America about sports...

I've never heard of Mike SCHMIDT, "three-time NL MVP with the Phillies."  As a fielder, Schmidt won the National League Gold Glove Award for third basemen ten times. Schmidt was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995 and is often considered the greatest third baseman in baseball history.

And then more sports: ODELL Beckham Jr., "three-time Pro Bowler for the New York Giants."  He seems to be an offensive rookie.

"Green building certification" is LEED, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The term for a hot-rod engine, HEMI, has appeared before, and this time I filled it in with no trouble.

Tennis great ROD LAVER appeared on November 23, 2018.

Beloved baseball manager GIL Hodges last appeared on August 7, 2018.

It's HELLA frustrating to not zoom through a Monday.  Stupid sports guys!  Anyhoo, very nice puzzle.  I enjoyed the timely theme.