Monthly Archives: December 2020

NYT Spelling Bee 12-31-20 final

Hello from Day 42 of the current California COVID constant curfew, and HAPPY NEW YEAR! By the time you’re reading this, it’ll likely be 2021. Yaaaaay!

This was an awful puzzle to end the year on, but it was classic 2020. It took way too long to complete, and at its end, it was just relief and nothing more.

But to both of those things, we did make it to the end, and that’s something to celebrate.

Both yesterday and today I did not go for Queen Bee.

Yesterday I missed the easier EXACT, NEATEN, NUANCE, TACET, TAUTEN, UNEATEN, UNTUNE. I also missed ACETATE.

Meatier misses

CETACEAN: A marine mammal of the order Cetacea; a whale, dolphin, or porpoise.

Narwhal: A cetacean and the unicorn of the sea.

EXACTA: A bet in which the first two places in a race must be predicted in the correct order.
EXEUNT: Used as a stage direction in a printed play to indicate that a group of characters leave the stage. As the 366-day cast of 2020 is doing right now. Step lively, zozo!

Today’s summary

Final score: 51 words for 221 points.
Genius minimum: 219 points.
First word: LENTIL.

I passed the CPA Exam almost a decade ago. Becker CPA Review was pricey, but EY reimbursed me. Good times.

NYT Crossword 12-31-20 Complete

The last NYTXW of the decade. How crazy. Sure, there’s debate as to whether the decade starts on the 1-year or on the 0-year, and while those who say the 0-year very obviously are wrong, it’s still America, and the incorrect 0-argument (with equal quantity of merit) is protected as free speech. I’m not an attorney, but I think that’s how that works.

Also now there’s enough writing so as not to reveal any answers in the text capture in the preview when this posts on twitter.

I pulled out 22A Product with the slogan “Trust the power within”: DURACELL because everyone knows the Duracell Bunny. Wait, no, everyone knows the Energizer bunny. But the Duracell Bunny came first. They had commercials and everything. Like this one:

But when the stodgy, British fools at Duracell let the trademark lapse, the sprightly, American Energizer jumped at the opportunity to take that over and throw it in the faces of their across-the-pond rivals.

Like in the late 18th century, a booming defeat of the British by the Americans.


I decided to use the rebus feature of the puzzle to put many letters into single squares. I’ve avoided that in the past, but why not try this time? In this screenshot, you can see how I started out strong but not without incorrect answers.

The theme was about what’s both hurting during this pandemic.

7D Local economy makeup … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme: SMALLBUSINESSES.

19A Broker’s request for funds: MARGincALL.
4D Diner or sleeper: TRAincAR.
It’s incorporated but smaller!
26A Digital currency: BITcoIN.
8D Faces of the digital age?: EMOTIcoNS.
It’s company but smaller!
38A Epic collapse: MEltdOWN.
31D Winner of a record 26 Oscars: WAltdISNEY.
It’s limited but smaller!
46A Highlighter of tihs clue?: SPEllcHECK.
40D Violently temperamental sorts: HEllcATS.
It’s limited liability company but smaller! Also it is limited liability COMPANY, not limited liability CORPORATION.

Happy new year, everyone! Let’s make 2021 way better than 2020 has been.

NYT Spelling Bee 12-30-20 final

Hello from Day 42 of the current California COVID constant curfew. We’re about to close out 2020, and we’ll still be fighting COVID-19 in 2021. Good times for sure. In other news, I found out tonight, my weekly Corner Gas night ever since we finished Twin Peaks, that Amazon’s watch party no longer covers IMDb TV, which is where Corner Gas is. So after trying a British documentary series called Paranormal Pornstars, which is both NSFW and something you wouldn’t want to watch with your parents but only because it’s so deathly boring, we started watching The Prisoner. Way better to watch Patrick McGoohan than random porn stars stuck in some deserted building where there for certain are no ghosts. There is no nudity.

Yesterday I was so close to Queen Bee, and today was too long for me to go for it.

All the misses

RAPT: Completely fascinated by what one is seeing or hearing.
TARTAR: A hard calcified deposit that forms on the teeth and contributes to their decay.

Today’s summary

Final score: 35 words for 161 points.
Genius minimum: 160 points.
First word: TENET

WSJ Crossword 12-30-20 Complete

It the last Wednesday of the year, and the sky sure looks to be threatening rain. Not exactly what I’d hoped for to close out 2020, but it’s not like I’m going anywhere.

I pulled out 8D BLT alternatives: PBJS because I don’t think I agree that they are on equal footing. Now, I don’t eat bacon, but I don’t remember any kids at school getting BLTs packed in their lunchboxes. I don’t know of any hiker who routinely takes along BLTs to eat along the way. I don’ t know of sports teams requesting BLTs for energy before the game. I realize my argument is that the PB&J is for the less adventurous (i.e. children) and for the incredibly sophisticated (i.e. NBA teams):

“No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to swallow: The NBA is covered in experts, obsessed with peak performance — and still this pillar of grade-school cafeteria lunches is the staple snack of the league. An exorbitantly wealthy microclique, backed by an army of personal chefs, swears by a sandwich whose standard ingredients boast a street value of roughly 69 cents.”

So where does the BLT fit in? I’m no expert, but maybe corporate training lunches?

Feel free to set me straight on this.

The title of this puzzle is In at the Finish. I figured it out partway through, and the puzzle fell into place.

18A Appreciative observation at the Renaissance Faire?: WHATAJERKIN. So it’s what a jerk! and a jerkin.

This is a jerkin.

23A Breakfast treat with an auriform shape?: EARMUFFIN. So it’s earmuff and muffin. Initially I had put OATMUFFIN, but who wears oats to keep them warm?
38A Prestidigitator’s publication?: MAGICBULLETIN. So it’s magic bullet and bulletin. If you are unfamiliar with prestidigitation, it’s the same as legerdemain. The Magic Bulletin is just OK. It’s not Genii or Linking Ring.
51A Expensive material for a crib blanket?: BABYSATIN. So it’s babysat and satin. Baby satin isn’t nearly as good as the #raabidfun onesies, but what are you going to do.
58A Coach’s intellectual equipment?: SPORTSBRAIN. So it’s sports bra and brain.

You have to have a real brain for sports to kick a World Cup-winning penalty kick. You can’t not get emotional at this video.

Finished this one in 27:38.

NYT Crossword 12-30-20 Complete

It’s another chilly day in Los Angeles. At 9am it’s 56 degrees outside, and even indoors, my fingers are being uncooperative as I type this. No fun. But this puzzle was pretty good for a Wednesday.

I pulled out 2D Mythological figure who’s a symbol of hubris: ICARUS because the Netflix documentary about Russian doping is insane. Calah and I watched it a couple weeks ago. It was new to her, but I’d seen it before. It starts out with filmmaker Bryan Fogel trying to understand the competitive cycling world and the role of performance-enhancing drugs within it. Then it takes a hard turn away from bikes. If you haven’t seen it yet, the only reason not to right now is if you haven’t seen Senna because Senna goes away tomorrow.

Racing bikes is something close to my heart, as I was on the mountain biking team in college. Was I the best on the team? Was I a standout on the team? Did I have fun on the team. The answer to all those is yes… except for the first two. An assessment UCSB Cycling teammate Geoffrey Bishop would agree with if he’s reading this post, and there’s a good chance of that because he reads my blog sometimes. What’s up, Geoff?

There I am! You know, not in the front.

The theme of this crossword is willpower.

14A It might cost extra at a beach resort: OCEANVIEW.
20A Clairvoyant’s accessory: CRYSTALBALL.
37A Key lime pie crust ingredient: GRAHAMCRACKER.
58A Cut above the rest?: PORTERHOUSE.

66A Nightstick … or what might form if the beginnings of 14-, 20-, 37- and 58-Across started paying dues?: BILLYCLUB.

14A BILLY OCEAN(view).
20A BILLY CRYSTAL(ball). It sounds like the 700 Sundays entire cast married all of the title characters of I Love Lucy. Also Billy Crystal and Bill Kristol put out a pro-Biden video targeted at the elderly in Florida back in October.

Oh, the banter!

37A BILLY GRAHAM(cracker).
58A BILLY PORTER(house).

Finished this one across three devices in 14:17.

NYT Spelling Bee 12-29-20 final

Hello from Day 41 of the current California COVID constant curfew. It was announced today that the stay-at-home orders will be continuing… indefinitely. I was right to count yesterday as Day 40. I mean of course it has to continue because otherwise there would be NYE parties within the law, and that’s not happening.

All three missed words

ENCAGE: to put in a cage.
GANACHE: A whipped filling of chocolate and cream, used in desserts such as cakes and truffles.
GELEE: That gelatin dessert.

So close to Queen Bee! Probably today, too.

Today’s summary

Final score: 28 words for 106 points.
Genius minimum: 79 points.
First word: PART
Pangram: TRACKPAD <- This took a lot to figure out.

WSJ Crossword 12-29-20 Complete

Pretty fast for me for a Tuesday WSJ puzzle. In other news, while it’s not pouring in LA today and the temperature has cranked up to 59, we’ve got sustained 14MPH winds and 20+MPH gusts. I don’t care much for this, but I do look forward to going for a walk later to see the city clear of smog thanks to yesterday’s rain and with wind-swept skies.

I pulled out 16A Diet that goes against the grain?: PALEO because that word just means old, from the Greek palaios, which means ancient. Now that I think about it, it’s cool to think of the ancient Greeks thinking about what was ancient to them. It’s like how an elderly person will call a 50-year-old a kid. But since paleo just means old, do you have any chunky milk in your fridge right now? Any open bottles of wine that have turned to vinegar? Any blue cheese that wasn’t intended to be that color? Shouldn’t those count as part of the paleo diet?

This puzzle’s title is Idle Hands, and the clue are about a thing I have on the wall that I finally bought after much delay because I finally found the time to do so.

18A Karate chop target, sometimes: CINDERBLOCK. Though breaking them this way isn’t always as hard as it seems.

28A Radio format for Fleetwood Mac and Heart: CLASSICROCK.
51A Where Oxford types might hang out?: CLOTHESRACK. Oxford style billowy shirts.

62A It’s right twice a day, and it can be found at 12-, 28-, and 51-Across: BROKENCLOCK.

But the problem is that the saying is inaccurate. It’s not just that a broken digital clock shows nothing at all and therefore neither shows the wrong time nor the right time. It’s not always right with analog clocks. The pendulum of a grandfather clock may swing fast or slow compared to accurate and be in need of repair. Depending on the speed, it may be off by an additional second each day and therefore be right once every approximately 118 years, as it would have to make up 12 hours of drift at the rate of 1 second a day. There are 43,200 seconds in 12 hours, 43,200 days is a little more than 118 years. If it’s running too fast, it may be right more than twice a day, but that would make at least twice a day and therefore would qualify.

Finished this one in 8:00.

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 3)

NOTE: This is the final installment of this project. A new woodworking project series starts next week.

I left off last week with the plans in place to attempt to fix the split, install the new screws, cover gaps with wood filler, sand, and then use take oil.

I had the clamps from the old end table refinishing project, so I hoped that the split would be able to be fixed with glue and pressure. After a solid attempt, there wasn’t much movement, and I’d have to fill the crack with the wood filler.

The effort did leave some marks, but all part of the game. The first sanding step was next and then countersinking the new screws.

I knew I would have to sand after the wood filler, but sanding beforehand gave me a clean surface, a view of what I had to do, and a lot less to fix when the filler dried hard and could be sanded.

I drilled out enough to let the new screws grab hold and be deep enough for the filler to survive.

And the Robertson screws are great. I learned that I do not have a preference between Torx and Robertson. Both are easy to drive and stable. I felt no chance of slippage.

Filling the holes and then sanding was pretty fun. While I don’t seem to have pictures of the wood filler process, it was simple to apply and then smooth out with an old plastic card. A giftcard to a place Covid put out of business or a gym membership card work nicely.

There are many colors of wood filler available, and some people recommend using sanding dust from the piece of wood you want to fill to make a perfect color match. I have no problem even calling attention to it.

When I stripped the screw head decades ago, the driver bit slipped and dug into the wood. That gouge is now covered by the wood filler, as you can see in the lower of the two on the right side.

Next step: teak oil!

What a change from this:

I really like how this looks. I’m very proud of it, and I think that I would have been just as stoked with it if I’d finished it this way decades ago.

What I find even cooler is that the wood filler is darker on the left side and lighter on the right side.

Except it isn’t. It’s like the optical illusion we’ve all seen in some corporate training seminar:

Trippy, right?

While this project is now complete, I’ll have a new woodworking project next week. I’ve been working on a couple of chairs for a while, and they’re not done yet. I also don’t know if they will end up turning out. This may be my first complete failure project, but these are new territory for me, and I’m learning a lot. Join me in the new year, won’t you?

NYT Crossword 12-29-20 Complete

A Tuesday with errors that slowed my time down. And my hands are freezing. It’s 44 degrees in LA right now. Heater? Nah. But that may change as I continue to type.

In other news, I’m now on Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 14 entitled Ozymandias. That’s the one on IMDb that’s rated 10/10. I’ve continued not to find this season compelling (other than to turn it off), and I’m wondering if the episode is a 10/10 in the context of this season or if it’s 10/10 in the context of the show. I can’t imagine it’s the latter.

I pulled out 5D Garment that may be “dropped”: TROU because I don’t think it’s appropriate use of quotation marks. Trou is short for trousers. Pants. Dropping pants and dropping trousers is the same thing. Why it “dropped” and not dropped? I don’t like it. If I’m wrong about this, please let me know.

I got the answers to the theme clues before I got the answer to the theme clue.

17A Xena, notably: WARRIORPRINCESS. While watching the second season of Are You the One?, Jessica has black hair and blue eyes. I’m convinced that her hair is dyed black, but Calah either isn’t convinced or is messing with me. They dyed Lucy Lawless’s hair for Xena. This argument got me nowhere.
27A Largest lizard on earth (up to 10 feet long): KOMODODRAGON. It’s huge and eats big animals!

47A Who sang the 1973 #1 hit “Midnight Train to Georgia”: GLADYSKNIGHT.

63A “Happily ever after” … or what 17-, 27-, 39- or 47-Across has?: FAIRYTALEENDINGS! PRINCESS, DRAGON, TOWER, KNIGHT.

Finished this one in 13:27 after correcting errors.

NYT Spelling Bee 12-28-20 final

Hello from Day 40(?) of the current California COVID constant curfew. The stay-at-home orders were set to expire today, but it was more like they couldn’t expire before today. Gov. Newsom said today that we’ll hear from someone tomorrow about more stay-at-home orders. I guess if he had complete information, he’d be Gavin Newall.

Today I tried for Queen Bee. I’m writing this post at 7:44pm, and although I have more than four hours left, I don’t think I’m going to find more. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t look at the sites that say how many words there are with the starting letter and length, so I have no idea how tall the mountain is. There have been a few puzzles I’ve missed Queen Bee by a single word, but that’s how it goes. In my experience, the surprise of getting to the Queen Bee level makes up for the disappointment of when yet another found word doesn’t exhaust the list.

And on the topic, I missed just two yesterday.

Meatier misses

BINNING: The act of throwing things away.
GIBE: An insulting or mocking remark; a taunt. Fitting!

A note on yesterday’s pangram: If I had missed BEEKEEPING, for the spelling bee, that would have been completely unacceptable.

Today’s summary

Final score: 53 words for 208 points.
Genius minimum: 167 points.
First word: ALGAE


Final score: 54 words for 214 points.
New word: GALENA
Still no Queen Bee.


Heavy outpouring of support for this one! Thanks, everyone!