Monthly Archives: December 2020

NYT Spelling Bee 12-24-20 final

Hello from Day 36 of the current California COVID constant curfew. It’s hard for me to believe that we’re more than five weeks into this. As I have mentioned before, the last day of the current rules is Sunday, but with ICUs exceeding capacity, I’d be shocked–shocked–if they didn’t extend the restrictions.

Yesterday I missed the easy MOAT, MONO, and TOMATO. It’s funny that I missed MONO because Calah and I are watching Are You the One?, and we joke that everyone’s going to leave there with mononucleosis. Each of us is upset that they only have two seasons now on Netflix when there four more that have aired but aren’t yet available.

As is typical with reality TV shows, the first season was better than the second season. They can figure it out in the third season, but we don’t have the third season! I’ve also witnessed so much clapping in between words, and I didn’t even know that that was a thing.

Meatier misses

MAHATMA: (in South Asia) a person regarded with reverence or loving respect; a holy person or sage. I didn’t realize this was not a proper noun.
OOMPAH: Used to refer to the rhythmical sound of deep-toned brass instruments in a band. I had OOMPA, but it didn’t go. Must be an anti-Dahl bias.
PHOTOMAP: A map made from or drawn on photographs of the area concerned. Um, what?

I think I get it. Like when you’re traveling to Paris in 2012 and want to know here the Eiffel Tower is and where the Arc de Triomphe is, so you ask at the front desk of the Hôtel Original, and the tourist map has the photos of the interesting places?
POMPANO: An edible butterfish that lives in shoals along the east coast of North America.

I’ve seen worse photoshop jobs
Better ‘shop job

Today’s summary

Final score: 26 words for 96 points.
Genius minimum: 92 points.
First word: CENT
Pangram: CHUTNEY (courtesy of Calah who unsolicitedly provided that answer)

This one was worth a shot.
The party don’t start till I walk in!

NYT Crossword 12-24-20 Complete

It’s raining in Los Angeles! I imagine that means that there’s snow in the mountains. I’m Jewish, and while I appreciate the Chanukah sentiment I receive, I think it’s cool that there’s snow in LA on Christmas eve, as it’s a thing many people sing that they dream of.

I pulled out 23D There are more of these in the U.S. in October than any other month, surprisingly: BRIDES because it certainly is a surprise to me. I guess I don’t really think about October as a good month for weddings because that’s like when all the Jewish holidays are. To compound that with a wedding sounds nightmarish. As I think about it further, October is right after summer ends and is before the world turns to ice. I generally forget about the world getting colder than 45 degrees. Even with the rain today, it’s 62 outside.

Honorable mention to 59A Half of a 1960s folk/pop group: MAMAS, as I had mentioned their counterparts in a post a few days ago. Good for Will Shortz to be a counterexample to recent WSJ editorial misogyny.

I would not have been able to solve this puzzle without figuring out the theme first. And then it was even fun to solve the theme answers. So I’ll present it in that order.

52A Is unable to get away, say … or a hint to 17-, 24- and 40-Across?: CANTFINDTHETIME. Essentially,

17A Spill a shipment of bowling balls?: LETTHEGOODSROLL.

24A Works during a slow day at the restaurant?: WAITSFORNOONE.

The above tattoo picture came from going down a rabbit hole. I looked for a picture of time waits for no one. I then got to time waits for no one tattoo. This image appeared as part of that search. It’s kinda sad all around.

40A Go on a date with a honeybun?: TAKEONESSWEET.

Finished this Thursday puzzle in 26:21.

NYT Spelling Bee 12-23-20 final

Hello from Day 35 of the current California COVID constant curfew. Did you hear that all the markets in DC are sold out of carbonated drinks? It’s true! People are burping their way through Lafayette Park saying, “Pardon me.”

Yesterday I missed the easy AMMO, ANON, KNOLL, KNOWN, and MONO.

Meatier misses

KOAN: A paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.
KOLA: A small evergreen African tree which is cultivated in the tropics for its seeds (cola nuts).

Kola tree from

MAKO: A large fast-moving oceanic shark with a deep blue back and white underparts. Reread. It’s underparts, not underpants.


Today’s summary

Final score: 26 words for 111 points.
Genius minimum: 103 points.
First word: MAMMON my new favorite NYTSB word. I don’t want to miss it again.
Pangram: PHANTOM

No E for no effort!

WSJ Crossword 12-23-20 Complete

This was a shockingly tough puzzle for a Wednesday, but maybe I’m just a little off my game today? I did find yet another WSJ/NYT duplicate, and there has to be collusion in some way. How can it be so frequent that the same day has some shared answers?

That’s what 19A Goes ballistic: RANTS is. And it’s an apt answer for what I’m writing right now. I don’t know that I particularly care for the clue, but we’re set on the rant part. In the today’s NYTXW, there was 70A Speeches that go off the rails: RANTS. Now, the WSJXW comes out at 1pm, and the NYTXW comes out at 7pm. From personal experience, I do not think it’s beneath Will Shortz to throw in others’ work uncredited. Doesn’t make me very happy to come to that conclusion, but what am I supposed to do?

The title of today’s puzzle is Flow Profile. It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected it to be, but I caught on partway through: just get rid of the F’s.

20A The chicken dance as a touchdown celebration?: VICTORYFLAPS – F = VICTORYLAPS. I had interpreted the Flow part of the puzzle title as the puzzle having to do with flows. I filled out VECTORY because vector flow pun. But no.
34A Pairs-driving practice?: FLIPSYNCING – F = LYPSINCING.
41A Plane trip whose carbon emissions are offset?: GREENFLIGHT – F = GREENLIGHT.
51A Evolution gone wrong?: FLAWOFNATURE – F = LAWOFNATURE.

I wish it had been a real flow thing rather than the removal of an F.

I finished this long Wednesday in 58:52.

NYT Crossword 12-23-20 Complete

Wowza! This puzzle was tough for me. I had to reverse-engineer all kinds of stuff, and I never would have solved it without figuring out the theme first.

I pulled out 34D Ingredient in some medicinal teas: SENNA because I would have preferred a clue about the late Brazilian race car driver. If you haven’t watched the documentary on Netflix, please do so before it goes away on December 31. Even if you don’t inherently like motorsport, this is a compelling story, as my mom can attest. If you have surround sound, watch it in that environment. This is the first film I watched to take advantage of my Vizio 5.1.2 system with Dolby Atmos back when I could have Ari over to watch it with me because I had to share. Here I am being nostalgic about how good we had it a year ago. There are scenes from Ayrton Senna’s camera cockpit, and you hear the engine noise behind you and cars to the left and right. Newer shows like Formula 1 Drive to Survive also benefit greatly from surround sound, but watch Senna first because it’s going away.

The solution of this puzzle is one that yielded a grid that wasn’t exactly what I’d filled out. I had put in the first letter of each word that was contained in the circles.

20A 10th and 11th, e.g.: EXT(R)NINGS -> EXT(RAIN)NINGS. You know, free baseball.
4D High rollers?: ELT(R)S -> ELT(RAIN)S. I had had this as ELITES and then ELT_K because I mistakenly had thought that 23A Westernmost country in continental Afr.: SEN[EGAL] was KEN[YA].
18A Interval for a scheduled blastoff: LAUNCH(W)OW -> LAUNCH(WIND)OW. I had attempted to attend a launch of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) at Vandenberg AFB on July 1, 2014. It had a 30-second launch window, and as the slated time drew near, we heard, “HOLD HOLD HOLD,” and half a minute later, everyone dejectedly started walking back to the buses. I then went home because there was a real chance it would not go up the next night. It did, so I missed it. It would have been a real launch wow, though.
11D Puts back in its original state, as a videotape: RE(W)S -> RE(WIND)S. I think REWS works, too, but it didn’t indicate an abbreviation, so it doesn’t.
57A Rend: TEARA(S)DER -> TEARA(SUN)DER. TEARSDER doesn’t mean anything.
53D Scary cry on a beach: T(S)NAMI -> T(SUN)AMI. Prior to figuring out what the circles meant, I figured it was SHARK! Then I knew that the circles contained some word, so I thought it might be ITSASHARK!
63A Wonder-ful product?: SL(I)DBREAD -> SL(ICE)DBREAD. I had expected this to be WHITEBREAD early on.
56D Enemy of Antony, in ancient Rome: CIRO -> C(ICE)RO. I didn’t know if 66A ___ Honor: was HIS or HER. I had _(I)_O, and I went through the letters and realized quickly that it was CICE_O, so CICERO and there fore HER.

40A Carriers of meteorological instruments … as suggested by this puzzle’s theme?: WEATHERBALLOONS because WIND, RAIN, SUN, ICE. Early on I figured that the circles, in order, were W, I, N, D. That was proved incorrect.

Finished this Wednesday puzzle in 30:51.

NYT Spelling Bee 12-22-20 final

Hello from Day 34 of the current California COVID constant curfew. I haven’t heard of any extension of the lockdown for beyond Sunday.

Yesterday I missed ACAI and TACT as easier ones.

Meatier misses

ACACIA: A tree or shrub of warm climates that bears spikes or clusters of yellow or white flowers and is frequently thorny.

The Lion King tree gets me again!

CAVA: A Spanish sparkling wine made in the same way as champagne. I don’t know my wines.
PICCATA: Cooked in a sauce of lemon, parsley and butter.

Chicken piccata from

Today’s summary

Final score: 27 words for 75 points.
Genius minimum: 68 points.
First word: ALLOW


Final score: 28 words for 81 points.
Genius minimum: 68 points.
First word: ALLOW
Most recent word: MAMMON, the word that I wrote a long thing about the other day.

WSJ Crossword 12-22-20 Complete

A strange slog of a puzzle today. Could be the Tuesday blues. One day closer to the end of the short week. But it feels a lot like Monday night. Hooray for scheduled posts!

I pulled out 49A Cheering loudly: AROAR because this word’s absence from the NYT Spelling Bee word list is the subject of repeated complaints of mine.

It won’t be long till I find this in an NYTXW.

The title of this puzzle is Family Holiday, and when I solved the first themed clue, I figured it was about different members of a family. Turns out that it was about a single member of the family. It’s like what I imagine would happen if Denny Doherty, John Phillips, Peter Yarrow, and Paul Stookey got together to form a quartet.

4A With 13-Across, holiday greeting in Havana: FELIZ + NAVI(DAD). I couldn’t think of a cleaner way to merge this into a single clue. Something to note is that José Feliciano, singer known for that song, is Puerto Rican. This clue made me wonder if he’s Cuban. He’s not. Now I know.
28A Seasonal decoration for (54D Target of seasonal decorations: TREE): (POP)CORNSTRING. I had thought that 13D Racist or sexist, say: NOTPC was NOTOK, so this originally was (POP)KORNSTRING. Unfortunately, the WSJ editorial board seems to limit their classification of racism and sexism to political correctness, so shrug emoji. OK, kiddo?
44A Gift packaging need: WRAPPING(PA)PER. To have just two letters from this seems sloppy.
28D Oblong yellow fruit: [(P)APA]W. Talked about a missed opportunity. It was right there. But this is a fruit that normal people call the papaya. I guess others just give up early.
59A Britain’s equivalent of Santa, and a hint to the circled letters: FATHERCHRISTMAS. This is from a country whose Mother’s Day is called Mothering Sunday and is a religious holiday.

If those four guys had gotten together, they would have been Papa and Papa and Peter and Paul, and maybe they’d just agree to The Papas.

Finished this one in 16:46.

Woodworking: Finally finishing a small table from woodshop class (Part 2)

I left off last week with the thought that the stripped screw extractor bits I had purchased for the end table would work with this one. Well, I ran into some issues.

The end table had wood screws that were soft. Not a lot of convincing had to be done in order to remove those. It was fun to remove those screws. This had three main things working against my effort:

  1. The screw is made of hard steel. It’s amazing that the screwhead was stripped at all, but because it was, there it stayed for decades.
  2. The screw was there at all to keep pressure for glue that was drying. It was like using loctite.
  3. The screw was a slotted round head. This is massively different from a Phillips flat-head.
Phillips flat head.
Slotted round head.

The Phillips flat head is easier to extract. All you have to do is clear out the drive (i.e. where the screwdriver meets the screw) with a drill bit and use the extractor bit to grab the sides of the cone you’ve drilled out.

But a round head screw needs to be drilled out way more in order to turn the drive into a usable cone.

After significant time trying to drill out the screw with my old Craftsman bits, I started to wonder if it was a better idea just to drill away the head and leave the headless screw where it was. But I kept going because that wasn’t what I’d set out to do. I was going to remove this screw!

That upper screw on the right side was causing me so much pain.

And I kept on going.

Feeling defeated, I decided I’d give it one last go. Out it came. My initial thought of how happy I was to be rid of the screw right before giving up was replaced by the thought that it wasn’t the first last chance I had pledged. That gave way to a feeling of relief that had built up over 20 years.

There was so much work ahead of me. I had intended to countersink the screw heads and fill with wood putty. I also had the split at the top to try to glue back together without tearing apart the entire table. I didn’t see exactly how it was going to happen, but it certainly was worth a try.

I researched wood putty and wood filler. Based on reviews, I ended up buying Minwax Stainable Wood Filler. It comes in a squeeze tube, so application isn’t so cumbersome.

The screws that needed to be countersunk were already in my possession! I had researched screws for the other end table refinish project, and this was my chance to use the Robertson wood screws. It’d be the first time I’d use a square drive screw head.

After all that, I’d have to sand everything down to smooth it out and get rid of the stains that had accumulated over time. Then the teak oil.

More next week.

NYT Crossword 12-22-20 Complete

After a Monday in the mid-80s, today’s high is supposed to be in the upper 60s. And with a fire weather watch, it’s good that there’s a nonzero possibility of precipitation later this week.

I pulled out 33D Hawaii’s state bird: NENE because I wish they had a clue one day that wrapped around the grid that was Hawaii’s state fish: HUMUHUMUNUKUNUKUAPUA‘A. There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. Of course, it’s more complicated than that because they use the macron and the open single quote for lengths of words and stops within a word, respectively.

In a surprise to no one, the University of Hawaii has a whole writeup about this, that includes:

Why is correct Hawaiian orthography important?
Because these sounds are significant in Hawaiian, they can determine the meaning of words. A commonly cited example is a set of short words:
pau: finished
pa‘u: soot
pa‘ū: damp
pā‘ū: skirt
Without the ‘okina and kahakō, the distinction between meanings would be unclear.

Since the open single quote is not an apostrophe, smart quotes– the curly quotes which are annoying to me always because I’ve seen documents with a mix of smart quotes and straight quotes as well as books that have smart quotes in the wrong direction–really screw things up here because it’s hard to do an open single quote in the middle of a word. However, straight quotes should be fine to use in all situations, right?

This puzzle’s theme was a dream. And the funky puzzle shape was an interesting way to show nine days left of the year.

18A Rapture: SHEERBLISS.
59A Comforting mental state: HAPPYPLACE.
31D Realm of marvels: WONDERLAND.
24A With this puzzle’s central black squares, ecstasy: CLOUD and then the nine from the black squares.

Finished this one in 9:10.

NYT Spelling Bee 12-21-20 final

Hello from Day 33 of the current California COVID constant curfew.

Yesterday I missed GIGGLE, HILL, OLLIE.

I also missed LIEGE and EPILOG.

Measly misses

There’s not much I have to write about these misses. I understand that EPILOG can be spelled that way. I don’t think of it that way. I’m used to books starting with a prologue and ending with an epilogue. Is the one I’m used to just the British spelling over the American spelling? I feel like that’s not the situation because these books are American books.

Today’s summary

Final score: 15 words for 86 points.
Genius minimum: 75 points.


Final score: 16 words for 91 points.
Genius minimum: 75 points.
First word: CITY