Monthly Archives: February 2021

WSJ Contest Crossword 2-19-21 Answer

This is the fastest I’ve ever gotten the meta puzzle answer. Also likely the fastest I’ve ever gotten the Friday crossword completed. That is to say that I sent in the answer at 3:02pm on Thursday, and I didn’t even print out the puzzle as soon as it was released.

I’ve said this before, but there’s something that’s just fun about doing the crossword with pen and paper that isn’t there on the screen. I don’t know if it’s the risk of crossouts or the illegibility or sometimes misread of which clue goes with which box, but I’m going to keep on doing this for the WSJ crossword contest.

The title of this puzzle is IN CHARACTER.

The answer to this week’s contest crossword is a famous novel.

For my analysis, I still have to put it into a different format, so there’s no real time saving to do it all onscreen.

I’ve learned from the past that the starred clues are important for the meta puzzle answer.

17A *Lightly fruity wine: BEAUJOLAIS.
25A *Faultfinding situation: BLAMEGAME.
50A *Meditation-while-asleep practice: DREAMYOGA.
58A *1970 chart-topping hit for the Jackson 5: ILLBETHERE.

Then there was the hint clue:

36A George Eliot novel that’s not the contest answer, but provides a hint to it: MIDDLEMARCH.

BTW, What’s that comma doing in the clue?

Whatever this thing is must be in the middle of these long answers!

As to what links JO, MEG, AMY, and BETH, Calah immediately blurted, “Little Women!” And there you have it.

NYT Spelling Bee 2-20-21 final

Hello from Day 28 of the reopening of California. There are reports that the H5N8 bird flu has appeared in humans in Russia. I don’t know if this is genuine or if Russia is trying to start more craziness as we start to emerge from the COVID mire.

Yesterday I missed the other pangram ANALOGIZING as well as AIOLI, LANAI, LINING, LIONIZING, NONAGONAL, OOLONG, and ZONAL.

Meatier Misses

GALANGAL: An Asian plant of the ginger family, the aromatic rhizome of which is widely used in cooking and herbal medicine.

It’s not ginger!

GANGLING: (of a person) tall, thin, and awkward in movements or bearing. Like Jeff Francis: All elbows and kneecaps.

GANGLION/GANGLIA: A structure containing a number of nerve cell bodies, typically linked by synapses, and often forming a swelling on a nerve fiber.
GLIA: The connective tissue of the nervous system, consisting of several different types of cell associated with neurons.
GLIAL: Related to the above.
LONGAN: An edible juicy fruit from a plant related to the lychee, cultivated in Southeast Asia.

Today’s summary

Final score: 48 words for 206 points.
Genius minimum: 189 points.
First word: ALLOWED.

Chili for dinner and chili for lunch

Hello from Friday afternoon. Dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow is chili. Calah refers to it as my famous chili, but since I don’t think I’ve written a blog post about it before, how famous could it possibly be?

Over the years I’ve changed how I make chili. I’ve added some ingredients and swapped almost all fresh for canned. I do have dried kidney beans in the pantry, but I still haven’t broken away from canned. I think that is mainly caused by a fear of breaking my teeth on rocks in dried beans. I’ve heard warnings from my mom whenever she’d soak beans for cholent. I have to learn to make cholent.

I used to cut up all the ingredients and throw them in at the same time and let them sit. Cooking time was about two hours. Now I stagger when I add things to the pot and cook it for longer.

Oh! On the topic of cutting up ingredients! I sharpened a knife with my whetstone. I do that from time to time. I use my knife steel to keep the edge straight, but sometimes knives need sharpening. Using a whetstone freehand is a real bother, but check out the results:

I cut up the celery–an ingredient that I hadn’t originally included–so I can add it to the pot first. Stubborn celery can add a bitter crunch to an otherwise pleasant chili. For those who like that, add it later, I guess.

Adding it to a big pot with a little bit of oil.

I heat the pot at a little below medium heat on the stove to start the celery. I stir every about every 10 minutes. I turn the heat down to 3 about half an hour in.

The second-most stubborn ingredient I use is bell pepper. I use green bell peppers. Green bell peppers aren’t as sweet as the other colors of bell peppers. While the other colors make for prettier chili, green bell peppers ultimately do not make it monochromatic.

Two bowls of green bell peppers is a good quantity, too.

The addition of the bell peppers about an hour after the celery I think is about right.

Dicing onions is a problem for many. The crying, the slowness. None of that is for me. I like the Gordon Ramsay approach better.

But I cut into the onion sideways first. I find it’s easier to do that part before the head-on vertical slices. I use a whole onion.

Then comes the tomato. I used to use canned tomatoes. Those are fine. Fresh is better. I dice those up. Two bowls works.

About an hour of the celery and bell peppers being in there together, they’re much softer.

And it’s time to add onions.

And then the tomatoes.

Stirring shows how the colorful bell peppers weren’t needed.

I used to use garlic powder for this dish. Garlic powder is easy. But it’s not fresh garlic.

And while I used to use exclusively random chile powder, I’ve started to use jalapeños, too.

What’s nice about the jalapeños is that they look just like the green bell peppers, so who knows what’s on that spoon?

Chile powder varies in heat. I use about 3/4 tsp in my chili.

After these go for a bit, I add the canned kidney beans.

This goes awhile, too.

The last thing I add is the meat.

I use two pounds of ground beef. I used to just kinda throw it in and let it cook with the rest, but I’ve long stopped doing that.

My college roommate Darren gave me an Instant Pot for a birthday a while ago. The Instant Pot instructions for chili said first to cook the meat on a crazy-hot setting of the Instant Pot. The meat initially cooked that way and the saved juices make for a better chili, per those instructions.

I now do that but for a regular chili pot.

When browned, it’s ready to add.

I then let the chili go till it’s ready to eat. I like it with basmati rice.

NYT Spelling Bee 2-19-21 final

Hello from Day 27 of the opening of California. News broke that the Pfizer vaccine can be stored at higher temperatures than previously thought and that a single dose is pretty good protection, so maybe delay a second dose. I don’t know why they’d have made such a big fuss about the refrigeration before if it weren’t a requirement, but I’m not in charge of those things. My preference is everyone get all the shots and very quickly. Thanks. Also it’s my grandma’s birthday today. She passed a couple years ago, but she still was born on this day like a thousand years ago. So happy birthday to her.

Yesterday I missed AIDING, DIGIT, INDIGNANT, and PAID.

Meatier Misses

NAIAD: (in classical mythology) a water nymph said to inhabit a river, spring, or waterfall. I keep missing this one.

There you have it.

PANDIT: A Hindu scholar learned in Sanskrit and Hindu philosophy and religion, typically also a practicing priest.

Today’s summary

Final score: 52 words for 259 points.
Genius minimum: 255 points.
First word: GALLON.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

NYT Spelling Bee 2-18-21 final

Hello from Day 26 of the reopening of California. Today is National Drink Wine Day. Not to be confused with National Wine Day, which we all know is May 25. Rather than drink wine, Calah and I watched Sour Grapes. Wine and scandal together. What could be better?

Yesterday I missed ATILT, TIDILY, TIDY, TILT, and VIVIDITY.

Meatier Misses

LILT: A characteristic rising and falling of the voice when speaking; a pleasant gentle accent.

With not much to go on, I figured I’d find the etymology of the word.

From etymonline: 1510s, “to lift up” (the voice), probably from West Midlands dialect lulten “to sound an alarm” (late 14c.), a word of unknown origin. Possible relatives include Norwegian lilla “to sing” and Low German lul “pipe;” the whole loose group might be imitative. Sense of “sing in a light manner” is first recorded 1786. Related: Liltedlilting. As a noun, 1728, “lilting song,” from the verb. As “a rhythmical cadence,” 1840.

Lul sounds a lot like lull. I wondered if there was any relation between the two. So…

cf. lull:

early 14c., lullen “to calm or hush to sleep,” probably imitative of lu-lu sound used to lull a child to sleep (compare Swedish lulla “to hum a lullaby,” German lullen “to rock,” Sanskrit lolati “moves to and fro,” Middle Dutch lollen “to mutter”). Figurative use from 1570s; specifically “to quiet (suspicion) so as to delude into a sense of security” is from c. 1600. Related: Lulledlulling.

I guess there isn’t, then? Strange.

Today’s summary

Final score: 19 words for 102 points.
Genius minimum: 94 points.
First word: PADDING.
Pangram: ADAPTING.

NYT Spelling Bee 2-17-21 final

Hello from Day 25 of the reopening of California. There’s been icy wind here in Los Angeles. Not icy-icy like how Houston is or elsewhere in the country but like upper-40s. Brrr.


Meatier Misses

BLIN: one pancake made from buckwheat flour and served with sour cream.

LIMN: literary Depict or describe in painting or words.
TELNET: A network protocol that allows a user on one computer to log into another computer that is part of the same network. What year is this?

Today’s summary

Final score: 20 words for 95 points.
Genius minimum: 82 points.
First word: DAYLIT.
Pangram: VALIDITY.

Very proud.

NYT Spelling Bee 2-16-21

Hello from Day 24 of the reopening of California. I got an email from UCLA that I should sign up in case I’m suddenly eligible for the vaccine. What a dream situation that is right now. Since I’ve got quite some time before I’m 65, the wait continues. Biden tweeted that we’re well on track to get 100,000,000 shots in the first 100 days. I’m still waiting on my stuff, brooooo.

Yesterday I missed EAVE, LEVEE, LEVEL and LEVY,

Meatier Misses

GAVAGE: The administration of food or drugs by force, especially to an animal, typically through a tube leading down the throat to the stomach.
UVEA: The pigmented layer of the eye, lying beneath the sclera and cornea, and comprising the iris, choroid, and ciliary body.

Look at this.

UVEAL: Related to the pigmented layer of the eye, lying beneath the sclera and cornea, and comprising the iris, choroid, and ciliary body.

Today’s summary

Final score: 43 words for 187 points.
Genius minimum: 181 points.
First word: ENTENTE.
Pangram: NOPE!

Woodworking: First-ever chairs project (Part 5)

The goo was not the only significant problem with this project. I uncovered that a leg had been broken and repaired. The kind of repair that made more rather than less work for me.

I had dealt with a bad glue job when I did my first end table project. The pieces were poorly aligned, so I had to sand things back into shape.

But this is a leg. And the glue had no interest in giving up.

I looked up how to break wood glue, and the recommendation was vinegar.

So I tried it.

With the vinegar and some elbow grease, I was able to separate the leg from the rest of the chair. But as you see from the picture, I found that there were pegs that held the leg to the chair. The pegs were complemented by screws.

The new situation then was gross pegs and bad gluing surfaces and even a broken peg.

I saw (was forced to see?) a learning opportunity! What do I even do with pegs?

I researched how important they are. It turns out that they are very important. I looked to see how to get new ones and how to replace them.

If found that it certainly helps to have a drill press. However, I do not have a drill press.

I found which size pegs I needed and bought a bag of 100 on amazon.

At a dime apiece, it’s worth it.

Equipped with these dowels, and only slightly increased sanding access, I decided to try to remove the other leg. The thick paint made getting to the glue with the vinegar almost impossible, so I went with an approach that took me by surprise: saws!

I cut right through the dowels on the other leg. The screw holes are still there, but a source of guaranteed failure of the project had become proper installation of the new dowels.

More on this next week!

NYT Spelling Bee 2-15-21 final

Hello from Day 23 of the California reopening. The county supervisor says it’s time to reopen the classrooms because it’s safe. This is in advance of two drinking holidays. Purim is next week, and then St. Patrick’s Day is in about a month. Will the bars reopen? Superspreading yayyyy!


Meatier Misses

CURACAO: A liqueur flavored with the peel of bitter oranges.

I remember watching the Little League World Series years and years ago. Each player had a prerecorded video with their names and favorite baseball player that was used for the lineup. When it came to the Curaçao team, every kid’s favorite player was Andruw Jones, since Andruw Jones is from Curaçao.

Andruw Jones still has major influence.

NURTURANT: A thing that provides emotional and physical nourishment and care given to someone.

Today’s summary

Final score: 18 words for 82 points.
Genius minimum: 78 points.
First word: VALVE.
Pangram: VAGUELY.

NYT Spelling Bee 2-14-21 final

Hello from Day 22 of the reopening of California. And happy Valentine’s Day. It’s been quite the windy day here in LA. Sustained winds in the high-teens and gusts in the upper-20s.

Yesterday I missed the pangram, NONBELIEF. Unbelievable! Also BELIE and BELLE.

Meatier Misses

BOBBIN: A cylinder or cone holding thread, yarn, or wire, used especially in weaving, machine sewing, and lacemaking.

Ever wonder how a sewing machine works?

ENFEEBLE: Make weak or feeble.
ENNOBLE: Give (someone) a noble rank or title.
LIBELEE: Someone who was defamed through writing.

Today’s summary

Final score: 32 words for 149 points.
Genius minimum: 146 points.
First word: CURRANT.
Pangram: TURNCOAT.
It really seems like TURNCOAT isn’t there by accident. After yesterday’s betrayal of our country. Jeez.