Tuesday, July 19, 2016: “Full Count”

It’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” Tuesday, and today’s crossword will have you on the edge of your seats. ALL OUT (20A: 100%, as effort) in the top and it’s the bottom of the ninth, sweat dripping down the BRIM (14A: Hat part) of your YANKEE (22D: Ruth, for one) cap, two outs, score tied 8-8 (or maybe OCHOOCHO) (41A: Spanish eight), and AT BAT (9A: Up), the STAR of the team. Ball… strike… strike… ball… ball… and it’s FULL COUNT

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Solving time: 39:19 because it took me forever to figure out the theme, but it was smooth sailing from there on out.

Theme: The aforementioned FULL COUNT (63A: 3-2… or what’s represented by the answers to this puzzle’s starred clues?) meant that 3 BALLs and 2 STRIKEs were hidden throughout the puzzle.

Balls:

  • Apparently a game Will Shortz played as a child, BALL IN A CUP (11D: Children’s toy that tests dexterity). I imagine this was popular among the youth before the advent of smartphones, right up there on a definitive ranking of pastimes next to blankly staring at walls and domesticating wolves.
  • BALL JOINT (17A: Car part that works in a similar manner to the human hip). More to come on this later.
  • The aptly-timed CANNONBALL (29D: Cry just before hitting the pool). I wish I were at a pool now. 🙁

Strikes:

  • STRIKE BACK (37A: Retaliate) as well as
  • RENT STRIKE (42A: Tenants’ protest) both fit nicely in the puzzle and set up the neat motif of all the ball clues going down and strike clues across.

Additionally, I found a bunch of baseball-themed clues scattered throughout, the majority of which I mentioned in my intro. The theme was creative and original, especially for a Tuesday, and I had a lot of fun solving this crossword!

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High School Musical’s BODACIOUS (38D: Attractive, informally) Corbin Bleu doesn’t want to be a STAR (60D: Hollywood Walk of Fame symbol), he just wants to play ball!

Head-scratchersWhile I do enjoy listening to NPR’s “Car Talk” during long car rides, I felt wholly unprepared with identifying a BALL JOINT or intuiting VTEN (24A: Dodge Viper engine). Autonobile, more like it.

NANU nanu?? (48A: When doubled, a sitcom sign-off) This gif came up when I Googled it, and I am potentially even more confused than before. Any and all explanations are welcome.

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Clue of the day: My only critique of the puzzle was that there was only one pun; namely, ATLAS (65A: Place setting?), which could have been used to enable another Latin/Greek-themed clue. Alas, you can’t have OMNI (39A: Upscale hotel chain and another missed opportunity for Latin)

Greek of the day: Switching it up while sticking to the Classics, we have Trojan HELEN (19A: Mythical abductee). This clue wasn’t the apple of my eye because of its vagueness, but I still appreciated the shout-out.

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This pretty much sums it up.

 

Wednesday, July 12th, 2016: Tofu Bar

What’s this, you ask? Someone, anyone has looked away long enough from Pokémon Go to do something? Unbelievable in this MODERN DAY (11D: Characteristic of the present) and age. Coming to you live from an 86th street Pokéstop, it’s the Wednesday crossword!

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SWEETIE PIE (30D: Honeybunch)? More like Caterpie.

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Solving time: 31:53, average for a Wednesday.

Theme: Phrases that contain acronyms! So MAMMA MIA (52A: Example of bad parenting?) wasn’t referring to the ABBA-scored movie about the girl who doesn’t know who her father is, it’s “Mamma MIA.” Likewise, we have answers like COMMON ERA (17A: Stat shared by many pitchers?), LETER RIP (26A: “Leave that lady’s tomb alone!”?), DISAPPEARING ACT (40A: Exam that’s losing popularity in high schools?), and PICK ME UPS (66A: Cry from an eager applicant for a delivery job?).

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“Ooh ooh ooh PICK ME, UPS!!!”

Head-scratchers: Not because of spelling or clue quality, DISAPPEARING ACT is just factually incorrect- the ACT overtook the SAT sometime ago in popularity (See here), and while many colleges are considering becoming test-optional, the ACT doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere for now. Moral of the story, recent high school graduates know a little more than Will Shortz about the college process.

I get that the two anagrams of “D E A N S” were supposed to be clever- SEDAN and ANDES, in 19A and 37A, respectively, but the clues felt like relics from a past iteration of this puzzle, and, in my opinion, didn’t even deserve the question mark denoting its pun status (Order for a “D, E, A, N, S” list?)

NOEL (6D: Rhyme for “Israel,” in a carol) is more of a slant rhyme than an actual one, but maybe I just need to brush up on my caroling knowledge. Finally, I’m not sure what the clue for ATILT (54D: With lance in hand) was supposed to mean, but this is what I pictured:

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ATILT?

Clue of the day: STU (39D: Good name for a guy who’s seething?) I was also thinking “Ira” for this. Runners-up include ASICS (53D: SHoe brand that sounds like a letter and a number) and the foreboding OH NO (14A: Words of dawning realization).

No Latin of the day, to which I say Bye Bye Bye, Felicia.

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NSYNC (71A: “Bye Bye Bye” boy band) gives us an antonym for SAY HI (44A: Be a greeter)

-Maddie

P.S. If you were wondering about the title of this post, think about today’s theme. Tofu bar… or to FUBAR 🙂

Monday, July 11, 2016: “Wow Factor”

For a puzzle all about WOW FACTORs, there wasn’t much exciting going on in this Monday’s. I probably spent the majority of my time making up rhyming sentences with the clues (i.e. “OH GEE, SWEDE SNEE, play REEDS like STEVE ZEE!” Also, it was pretty fun to pretend the W-O-W theme was sarcastic and read all the clues in a Ted voice (see below).

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Solving time: 14:52, but only because I misspelled the abbreviation ASSN (5A: One of the a’s in Nascar: Abbr.) Overall, a fairly straightforward solve.

Theme: A lot of W-O-W clues based around WOW FACTOR (36D: Pizazz): WAR OF WORDS (18A: Heated argument), whose clue alternatively could have been “Any Popular Discourse post that mentions politics”; the graceful WALTZ OFF WITH (23A: Take while no one’s looking, say); the awe-inspiring WALKS ON WATER (46A: Exhibits a superhuman ability); and the classic WAY OUT WEST (56A: 1937 Laurel and Hardy romp in the frontier).

Head-scratchers: A little thrown off by the adjective ALGAL (3D: Like some pond growths), mainly because I wanted to pronounce it with a hard ‘g’.

Clue of the day: As a typeface nerd, I cannot count the number of times I’ve had to explain what a SERIF (7D: Feature of a font) is. Thanks, NYT Crossword, for giving me an excuse to make this nifty graphic:

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Nota bene: the horizontal line-type things on the serif font.

Runners-up include ASWOON (5D: In a faint) because I love adding an ‘a’ at the beginning of a noun and making it an adjective; REEDS (51D: Clarinets and such) because yay clarinets; and GOAD (29D: Prod) because this is how I remembered it when I learned it as an SAT word:

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A goat goaded with a GOAD

Latin of the day: Slim pickings, but I’ll settle with the 32D clue “By Jove!”(I SAY). I feel like this expression should make a comeback.

Stay ON WATCH (9D: Doing sentry duty) for tomorrow!

-Maddie

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Thursday, July 7: Airport Security

“Ugh,” you groan as you search for your English-to-Crosswordese dictionary (does this exist? If so, my birthday is November 17). “Not another mention of ASPs (42A: Venomous viper) or the verb to EKE (64A: Scratch (out)). And if I had a dollar for every time the TSA was mentioned…”

Not to fear, disillusioned crossword-goers, today’s puzzle uses Crosswordese unexpectedly- at random CHECKPOINTS, one migh(T SA)y.

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Solving time: 41 minutes, over half an hour faster than my average Thursday time!

Theme: Four CHECKPOINTS (34A: Border stops) with the sneaky sneaky TSA lurking as a rebus. (Personally, I think a hidden rebus of NSA might have been more clever, but I’m not complaining.)

Crazily enough, today was the first rebus puzzle I had ever completed! Before I figured out the reveal, I spent the majority of my time trying to think of a 5-letter way to say “IT’S A BOY” (50D: Delivery room announcement). I came up with the robottish “It boy” before I had a lightbulb moment when “LIGHTSABERS” (21A: Jedi defenses) wasn’t fitting either.

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Nick Cage helps us out with 58A: “Really?!”

Head-scratchers: Or should I say head-latherers: SUDSES (43D: Lathers up), ostensibly the present active form of the verb “to suds,” feels like someone started writing an actual word and got shampoo in their eyes. Also, saying AMEBA (10D: Low life?) is an alternate spelling of amoeba is like saying “ijit” is a colloquial spelling of idiot in order to get a triple letter boost in Scrabble: just no. On an unrelated note, I apologize to all the participants of this past weekend’s Scrabble game.

Finally, the last time I checked, an “outside clearance event”(47D) is a yard sale- how exactly would a so-called TENT SALE work? Are there multiple tents, and are they for sale?

The strangest clue of the day happens to coincide with another of my superlatives, so I’ll mention it later.

Clue of the day: The somewhat baffling Miley Cyrus-ism in 49A- “Pink isn’t just a color, it’s an ATTITUDE!” Runners-up include TOTALER (39D: Summer), since it has nothing to do with the season, and money-laundering OVENS (31A: A lot of dough can go into them).

Latin of the day: 24A’s “Mollusks once known as lepus marinus” aka… SEA HARES. Okay, what? Sure, I know lepus, oris (m) means ‘hare’ and marinus ‘sea,’ but why would you name the animal (right, image) after the bunny (left, artistic interpretation)? And what happened to make these mollusks “once” known as such? So many questions, so little time. Also pictured on left: my first attempts for this clue (sea horse, seashell, and seaweed, respectively).

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SEA HARES, expectation vs. reality.

Today, more than ever, I was grateful for every science course I took in high school, not to mention the physics class I am TAing this summer! From the smallest of small- an ATOM (38A: Focus of quantum mechanics) and the protozoan AMEBA to biochem’s KETONE (60A: Camphor or fructose) to the glorious electricity & magnetism unit measurement of the OHM (31: Volt per ampere), I have never so tangibly grasped the real-world applications of science as today.

Tha(T’S A)ll for now, folks!                                                                                                                         -Maddie

BTW (33D: Incidentally, in a txt msg), congrats to fellow blogger Kenneth Shinozuka for reaching a 60-day crossword-solving streak. Onward and upward, my friend- a swimming sea hare for you!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016: Yo, Ho, Ho

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Avast ye mateys! I’m Maddie Bender, and I do the New York Times crossword as both a hobby and a way to fill long silences with my coworkers during our lunch break. A couple of factoids about me:

  • I started attempting crosswords two years ago, with limited success. Nowadays, I can usually get through weekdays sans hints and a Saturday or Sunday if I read the New York Time’s Wordplay Blog (http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/)
  • Latin is a guilty pleasure of both mine and the writers of the New York Times crossword, apparently. Expect overexcitement for every clue alluding to Rome/Latin.
  • I’m a sucker for bad puns— my favorite reaction is the exhale-groan that comes from an answer like MARX AND LENIN (29A: Red giants)
  • My New York Times crossword subscription ends in September 🙁 Still looking for backers on my GoFundMe page.

Now buckle your swashes and hold onto your eye-patch, because today’s puzzle is pirate-themed!

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Solving time: 33 minutes, which is average for me.

Puzzle quality: The theme was cute, and I especially appreciated the pirate clues outside the reveal ones, but I was nowhere as pleased with this puzzle as last Tuesday’s spider-themed crossword. Today’s might not be one of the A-LISTERS (39D: Top celebs), but it’s one of many that MAKE PAR (29D: Finish a hole between a birdie and a bogey).

Theme: The big reveal today was a TREASURE MAP (59A) that gave phonetic hints to the starts of three other clues… pretty abstruse wording for “X marks the spot” wordplay. So from EX POST FACTO (17A: Retroactively, at law), the aforementioned MARX AND LENIN, and—is this even a word?— DESPOTICALLY (44A: How Ivan the Terrible ruled), we get EXMARXDESPOT. Hehehe. Other themed clues include ARRR (67A: Pirate’s interjection), BUCCANEER (11D: Pirate), and the head-scratching OLD SEA DOG (35D: Pirate, informally). Maybe this is actually a synonym for pirate, but the fact that I have never heard it might account for why it took nearly five minutes for me to correct “Oldshadog.”

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Head-scratchers: There were a treasure trove of these today, from EARVIN (63A: Magic Johnson’s real first name), which I was erroneously told was “Irving,” to ROUE (34D: Dissolute man), to the maddening UNS (61D: Little ___). What?! Was that clue supposed to be even a little helpful? They could’ve at least given an apostrophe. Also, raise your hands if you’ve ever said “The YOLK’S on you!” (38A: “The ___ on you, classic gag line). As I expected, not even a hook in the air.

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Clue of the day: DJ SETS (66A: Music mixes at a nightclub) isn’t a particularly witty clue, but as a member of a generation to which the New York Times crossword does not typically cater, I am always happy to see attempts to appeal to the youth (or the little UNS? Still bitter).

Latin of the day: Other than the wonderful EX POST FACTO, we have but a measly EGO (62A: Roman “I”)

Your fellow piratess,                                                                                                                            Maddie Bend-ARRR