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 🙂

Tuesday, July 12, 2016: “Broken Bones”

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Important note: Because of some bug, the NYTimes Crossword online app keeps deleting one letter in the grid after I’ve finished each puzzle. That yellow square should be a “T,” meaning that 34A is GOTTI and 26D is SAT BY.

Solving time: 27:17, which is longer than my time for a typical Tuesday and qualifies this puzzle as somewhere between medium and challenging, leaning on the challenging side.

Puzzle quality: On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the painful sensation of TRIPPING AND FALLING and 10 being getting blessed by Mother Teresa at CALCUTTA, I’d say about a 5.

Theme: BROKEN BONES.” Essentially, each pair of shaded clues represents a bone that gets “split apart” by the grid. For example, we have “UL” at the end of 24A and “NA” at the start of 28A; combined together, they formed “ULNA.” All in all, there are four broken bones:

  • RESTFUL and NATTERED (ULNA)
  • HASAC and RUMBA (SACRUM)
  • GOTTI and BIAS (TIBIA)
  • TRUE LIFE and MURKIER (FEMUR)

Thought of the day: Life is just a series of SLIPS AND FALLS, made worthwhile by the fleeting BLISS in between.


Not much time today for even an illustrative cartoon of the day, so I’m going to keep this relatively short.

I enjoyed today’s cutesy theme, but it certainly required the constructor to fill the grid with some MURKIER (46A: More obscure) clues than I’ve seen on an average Tuesday. I would be surprised if HAS AC (31A: Is ready for the summer weather, for short) has APPEARED IN (11D: Is part of the cast of) a puzzle before, especially a Tuesday. I thought for the longest time that the clue was supposed to be read as HASAC (without the space in between the “S” and the “A”)  and was almost certain that I was missing out on some cultural reference. USE AC might have been a better solution to the clue, since you can have AC before the summer but not use it until the heat arrives that season. Of course, however, that alternate answer wouldn’t have worked with the theme.

I wrote NATTERED (28A: Went on and on) into the grid after I had a couple letters from the downs, but I was a bit hesitant. As Mr. Oxford English Dictionary says, to “natter” means to “talk casually, especially about unimportant matters.” That definition doesn’t imply anything about going “on and on.” Maybe PRATTLED, which has just as many letters as NATTERED, would have been a more suitable answer.

RUMBA (37A: Cousin of the mambo) is certainly more arcane than its “cousin,” although it did ring a faint bell when I tried to recall it for that clue. Mr. Wikipedia mentions nothing about its relationship to the mambo, but a little bit of digging around on Mr. Google will tell you that the two dances are indeed related to each other.

I also had a bit of difficulty on the UL (upper-left) section of this puzzle. LABATT (1A: Canadian beer __ Blue) is apparently the largest brewer in Canada, a fact that I certainly wasn’t aware of since I couldn’t get the answer to the clue. Then again, I’m also too young to drink. I didn’t know that an ALL-PRO (14A: Distinguished NFL’er) is the “best player of a position during a given season,” according to Mr. Wikipedia. Additionally, I wrote ICE instead of the correct EIS (20A: Winter hazard on the autobahn) for 20A, not realizing that autobahn implied a German solution.

Other stray notes:

  • I appreciated the grid symmetry of SLIP AND FALL (17A: Take a tumble) and BROKEN BONES (55A: Injuries illustrated four times in this puzzle). I’m sure it was intentional.
  • I didn’t realize that “Chrome dome” is a synonym for baldness, so I had a bit of trouble getting BALDY (40A).
  • I thought that 36A: Military sch. would be referring to a specific military academy, but instead the answer was just a general ACAD.
  • RYAN’S HOPE (45A: “__” Hope, 1970’s-’80s soap) gets added to the list of TV shows that the NYTimes crossword has taught me about.

Signed,
Kenneth, lowly serf of Crossworld