Monthly Archives: December 2020

WSJ Crossword 12-28-20 Complete

It is coming down in LA. Wow! I haven’t seen rain like this since last year, I think. And it’s almost next year already.

I pulled out 32A How a baseball game starts: TIED because it reminds me of a story from when I was a sportscaster in college. UCSB women’s basketball was playing a game against I think Cal State Monterey Bay, but I’m not entirely certain right now if that was the opponent this story relates to. The game was to be played at the Events Center or ECen, but what we all knew as the Thunderdome. I’ll have to fact check this part, too, but I believe that Mitchell Clements was my broadcast partner for that game, and he and I did our pregame show leading up to tipoff. But there was a problem: The scoreboard was not functioning. They tried to fix it before the game was set to start, but that didn’t happen. So the refs assessed a technical foul to the team, and Cal State Monterey Bay(?) was allowed two free throws. They made one of the the two. The game started with UCSB down 1-0. I hadn’t seen that before or since. But not all game start tied.

The title of this puzzle is Are Too! Unfortunately, there is nothing Star Wars about this one.

Sorry, fella. Jeremy R. Capp says there’s no place for you here.

16A Luxury SUV from England: RANGEROVER. I’ve been in some. They are luxurious.
28A “The Princess Bride” director: ROBREINER. That was a good movie. “The Jerk” was directed by his father, Carl Reiner, who passed away in June of this year.
44A Wear out: RUNRAGGED.
27D Pan’s opposite: RAVEREVIEW. Speaking of panning compared to raving, I’m halfway through the final season of Breaking Bad, and it’s been tough for me to want to watch it. No average episode rating on IMDb dips below 8.9/10, but I find it to be almost unwatchable. To me, the characters have lost all relatability. I’m not rooting for anything other than for the end of the series. But it’s a long goodbye.
10D Tournament style: ROUNDROBIN. Yum!

58A Quaint vacay, and a hint to five long answers in this puzzle: ALITTLERNR.

Yeah, not you, either.

Finished this one in 19:39.

NYT Crossword 12-28-20 Complete

It’s a wet one today in Los Angeles. There was lightning last night and this morning! More in the forecast. I saw a truck loaded up with mattresses a couple days ago and mentioned to Calah that it’s good that randos are removing mattresses so they don’t get stuck in the storm drains when the big rain comes. It was funny because it doesn’t rain heavily here. Except when it does. I expect to hear stories of mudslides.

I pulled out 33D The devout do it on Yom Kippur: ATONE because I disagree so, so much with it. Now, I know that they wanted a break from the regular clue to the effect of “When lunch often ends,” but Yom Kippur is a holiday when the synagogues usually are filled to capacity at minimum. The Day of Atonement is absolutely not just a holiday that is observed by the devout, a word which means “Having or showing deep religious feeling or commitment.”

I abhor the conflation of the terms religious and observant because you can follow the letter of the law (observance) but miss the point, and you can follow the spirit of the law (religiousness) and not even be informed of the particular rules.

There’s a story in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) where someone goes to one heralded scholar, Shammai, and asks him to explain the Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai, a scholar who is learned but with comparatively little real-world experience, finds the request to be ridiculous and tells the guy to scram. Then the guy goes to another heralded scholar, Hillel, and asks him for the same thing. Hillel is also learned but has much real-world experience. Hillel tells the guy that the whole Torah is that you shouldn’t do to your neighbor what you don’t want done to you and that the rest of it is details about how to do this. He then advises study of the Torah to learn those details.

Throughout the Talmud, Hillel and Shammai go head-to-head more than 300 times, and Hillel–the one with real-world experience–wins these arguments more than 90% of the time.

This is not to say that the Talmud creates a precedent for anti-intellectual, anti-academic bias. Rather, this is an inclusive approach and a rebuke to those who limit acceptance to the so-called devout.

There is an altitudinal theme to this puzzle.

3D Wile E. Coyote’s supplier: ACMECORPORATION.
5D Athlete’s goal in competition: PEAKPERFORMANCE.
9D Absolute chicness: HEIGHTOFFASHION.
11D Quaint greeting: TOPOFTHEMORNING.

In addition to the on-theme ACME, PEAK, HEIGHT, and TOP, the theme answers are vertical in the grid. Nice touch.

Finished this one in 7:07 last night, but I didn’t refresh the tab with the puzzle before grabbing the screenshot just now, so it shows almost 12 hours. I don’t feel like doing a new screen grab, so I won’t.

Be safe out there, and enjoy your Monday!

NYT Spelling Bee 12-27-20 final

Hello from Day 39 of the current California COVID constant curfew. The earliest we’d emerge from this is tomorrow, but according to the LA Times today, we’re not close to being out of the woods.


Meatier misses

AGAR: A gelatinous substance obtained from various kinds of red seaweed and used in biological culture media and as a thickener in foods.
APPARAT: The administrative system of a communist party, especially in a communist country. Oh, I knew this!
ARGOT: The jargon or slang of a particular group or class.
ARHAT: (in Buddhism and Jainism) someone who has attained the goal of the religious life.
ATTAR: A fragrant essential oil, typically made from rose petals. Somehow, this also is spelled otto.
GRAPPA: A brandy distilled from the fermented residue of grapes after they have been pressed in winemaking.
HOAR: Grayish white; gray or gray-haired with age.
PARATHA: (in Indian cooking) a flat, thick piece of unleavened bread fried on a griddle.
TROTH: archaic, formal Faith or loyalty when pledged in a solemn agreement or undertaking.

It bears reminding that TORTA was not in the word list.

Today’s summary

Final score: 17 words for 91 points.
Genius minimum: 85 points.
Pangram: wait a second, did I not yet get the pangram?


Final score: 19 words for 114 points.
Additional words: BIKINI and BEEKEEPING.

WSJ Crossword 12-24-20 Complete

About an hour ago I posted the WSJ Crossword Contest blog post. This is the one for the crossword itself.

I pulled out 40D Drunkenly debauched: BACCHIC because this is a new thing to me. Turns out that Bacchus is the Roman name for the Greek Dionysus. Dionysus/Bacchus is the god of of the vine, grape-harvest, wine-making, wine, fertility, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, theatre.

Title of the puzzle is Past and Present, and of course this had a Christmas theme.

1A Present: GIFT. This is a little on the nose for the puzzle title.
10A Sax great Stan: GETZ. Like everyone getz a present.
25A With 45-Across, where you might find a present: BENEATH/THETREE.
35A Altar exchange: IDOS. You present rings under the chuppah.
36A Many a Christmas present: TOY.
41A Lift, so to speak: THIEVE. It’s a present to yourself. Or like Secret Santa because the store/Santa doesn’t know that you got the present until they take inventory.
61A Player’s payment: ANTE. Past and present, but this is before.

In an update from the earlier post, I totally got the crossword contest right. Hooray!

WSJ Crossword 12-24-20 Contest Answer

Longtime listeners of NPR’s Car Talk remember a puzzler and subsequent references to Ray saying something to the effect of, “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that there’s only one answer.” That there wasn’t only one answer was a source of taunting and replays of that statement in other episodes.

But that’s what I’m going to do here.

I am so confident that my answer to the Crossword Contest is right that I’m starting out with it and dedicating this entire post to it. The post about the puzzle will drop in about an hour.


The path to getting there was absolutely crazy.

Since last week was the first time I had ever tried the Crossword Contest, I thought the solution may follow the same approach of a shifted template. So I tried to find links there.

The first attempt started with noticing a lot of doubled letters.

There weren’t nearly enough or in any shape to give me a clue, but maybe there was more I could do with doubled letters.

That led to trying to find if all the doubled letters made a shape.

It did not.

However, I found that there were 12 letters in the puzzle that were doubled: A, C, E, F, H, I, L, N, O, R, S, T. The clue said a 12-letter word. Maybe it’s a word that uses only those 12 letters?

I rejected that pretty quickly because that’s too much.

I decided to black out the doubled letters to see if that revealed a word.

The revealed word was obvious: NO.

Back to the drawing board.

I looked at old puzzle answers. They had to do with the main clue or linked clues or gaps or really anything. But I looked hard at the only linked clue: 25A With 45-Across, where you might find a present: BENEATH / THETREE.

OK! So I see the word TREE all around. I also see the word THE in many places. That’s gotta be it.

Here’s where Ron Howard says: “But, it wasn’t.”

It was back to looking inside my brain. The word is just so long, and it can’t possibly be all in a row. But there’s something to do with trees and under them. So I started looking for trees.

And I found FIR. Fir is used as a Christmas tree, so that sounds good. What about pine? No dice. But FIR was a good start. And it had to be under, so if this is the way, the letters have to be across.

Then I found ELM. Elm gave me NSE. I typed FRANKENSENSE into S7 in Excel, and =len(S7) gave me 12. OK! It’s gotta be that word? Maybe? Sounds like it’s an on-theme answer.

I looked for the middle parts of that word and realized my spelling was off when I found ASH and OAK.

That it could be anything but FRANKINSCENSE, to me, is an impossibility.

NYT Crossword 12-27-20 Complete

This one was a doozie. But I finally finished. I have a fun one to pull out because it was hard for me to be convinced away from it.

7D Snapchatter’s request: ADDME. I was certain–CERTAIN–it was NUDIE. Of course, it wasn’t. The answer does not make sense. My answer does. That’s been what people have said about the company since its inception, and Random wrote about it in TechJunkie this summer.

The title of this puzzle is Partnerships, and this was a source of credibility for the conclusion that NUDIE was the correct answer.

23A Law partners: JUDGEANDJURY. No executioner, though.
39A Silent partners: PEACEANDQUIET. The dream.
45A Writing partners: PENANDPAPER. I interviewed at a place once that wanted to get an understanding of my accounting acumen and gave me a test that was pencil and paper. It’s so slow compared to using computers, and the pace of the office seemed to match. Employment there was not to be.
64A Partners in crime: BREAKINGANDENTERING. My dad got me a book called A Burglar’s Guide to the City, and in it, there is discussion of what breaking actually is. That leads to a point that if it’s crossing a doorway, what happens if the doorway doesn’t have a top? Crossing through a garden gate is breaking, sure, but how tall does the fence have to be? Three feet? A foot and a half? An inch? Less? It continues down that path. Interesting food for thought.
82A Business partners: BOOMANDBUST.
89A Romantic partners: HUGSANDKISSES.
110A Domestic partners: ROOMANDBOARD. Reminds of the Mitch Hedberg segment about the Chair Lunch Dinner

Finished this one in 53:30.

NYT Spelling Bee 12-26-20 final

Hello from Day 38 of the current California COVID constant curfew. The rules are set to expire tomorrow, and I don’t know yet of any extension.

I’m laughing at myself for yesterday’s missed pangram that would have put me over the edge to genius level.

I had tweeted this:

And when I looked at yesterday’s answers today, I saw that NONDAIRY was a pangram. Unbelievable.

The other pangram was ORDINARY.

I also missed ONIONY.

Meatier misses

DRAY: A truck or cart for delivering beer barrels or other heavy loads, especially a low one without sides.

DRYAD: (in folklore and Greek mythology) a nymph inhabiting a forest or a tree, especially an oak tree. It’s been a while since this has come up. I didn’t remember it then, and that hasn’t changed.
NINNY: A foolish person.

Today’s summary

Final score: 47 words for 198 points.
Genius minimum: 194 points.
First word: GRAPH

NYT Spelling Bee 12-25-20 final

Hello from Day 37 of the current California COVID constant curfew. I finally missed a genius level completion. I thought that there were words that should not have been omitted that were. I set up timed tweets to share.

I missed the more difficult EUNUCH, TEETHE, and THENCE. Also YECCH, which is just YECH with an extra C.

Meatier misses

TETCHY: Bad-tempered and irritable. It’s like touchy?
UNTUNE: To put out of tune.

Today’s summary

Final score: 21 words for 83 points.
Genius minimum: 91 points.
First word: DAIRY
Pangram: I did not find the pangram.

Like Donnie Darko!

Others that will post on time delay. I’ll update this later with those.

NYT Crossword 12-25-20 Complete

This wasn’t bad for a Friday at all! I was surprised at how I made it through. That’s not to say that I didn’t screw up in places, but I’m happy with how this went.

I pulled out 23A _ Bay (place mentioned in “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”): FRISCO because people I know who are from San Francisco and those who live there do not accept that word as an abbreviation for their city. It’s like how USC hates being called Southern Cal–a lot. I remember reading in the media fliers before broadcasting UCSB-USC in baseball games that we were not to refer to the school that way. But back to FRISCO! SFGate wrote about the FRISCO origins and how out-of-towners call it that.

I have my own experience with the FRISCO name and why Bay Area friends of mine have said, “Frisco is a city in Texas.”

I’ve mentioned the game Rail Baron before. I’ll dig up where I wrote about it so you can click through if you’d like to. OK here it is. It’s a Spelling Bee post.

In Rail Baron, there’s a railroad abbreviated SLSF on the board. It’s the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. It was known as the Frisco Line, and the town of Emerson, TX renamed itself Frisco, TX after the railroad, since Emerson was built around the railway station there. Now more than 100 years old, Frisco is now a city of about 200,000.

The St. Louis-San Francisco Railway never extended west of Texas and was absorbed into the Burlington Northern Railroad in 1980. The Burlington Northern Railroad merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in 1995 to make the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. That’s the BNSF we see on railcars.

As for the theme of this puzzle, I didn’t see any, so I’ll end this here.

Finished this puzzle in 25:54.

Have a great weekend!