It’s Thursday and the first full day of the Biden presidency. A reminder that I’m writing this on Sunday, January 17. It’s the end of my first week of doing last week’s puzzles on Sunday and timing them to post throughout the week.
I pulled out 57A Is for two: ARE because I got a chuckle out of it. Is is for one. Are is for two. What a world!
The title of this puzzle is Victory Parade. Biden won, the inauguration was yesterday, and even Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal has long turned to dunking on Trump.
17A Like an active surfer?: INMANYWAVES. 24A Message left for each of Henry VIII’s spouses?: AWORDTOTHEWIVES. 36A Suffers from a fear of icicles? FEELSILLATEAVES. 49A Motivations for midnight snacking?: THELATESTCRAVES. 58A Cat’s nine-pat allotment?: PACKOFLIVES.
It was all gratuitous these:
17A INMANYWAVES – V = IN MANY WAYS. 24A AWORDTOTHEWIVES – V = A WORD TO THE WISE. 36A FEELSTILLATEAVES – V = FEEL STILL AT EASE. 49A THELATESTCRAVES – V = THE LATEST CRAZE. 58A PACKOFLIVES – V = PACK OF LIES.
What a day today may be! People are calling for Liz Cheney’s head, and that’s a real shame. We need unity now, and the way to do it is to excise the things that continue to tear us apart. My take is that if Trump has won reelection and done this, they wouldn’t have minded getting him out right now, installing Pence, and then have an easy Pence inauguration on January 20. But that’s not the world right now.
I pulled out 53A “90 Day Fiancé” network: TLC because Calah and I binge watched that show together around the time we got engaged. There are so many things wrong with that show, and that’s, of course, why we had to watch all of it. Then we watched the spinoff, The Family Chantel. More trainwreck. So good.
I didn’t realize what the circles were until the end. It had seemed like they were all T’s, but that turned out to be incorrect. In this case, it was good that NYT automatically filled in the circles with the letter choices.
18A Relative of a croc: GA(T/B)OR. I took the clue to mean crocodile, so it was GATOR for alligator. But it can be taken like the shoe. Now I know that GABOR is a shoe brand. 7D Garage jobs: LU(T/B)ES. I took the clue to refer to cars, so it was LUBES. As for LUTES, I have zero idea how this applies. 24A Desires: WAN(T/E)S. I figured it was WANTS. That makes sense. I guess desires can wane. Like the desire to understand this puzzle because now I’m feeling that there’s a chance that the first letter is for the across and the second letter is for the down, and each word exists with the other letter. 4D What a letter needs: LEAS(T/E). I just don’t get this one. Oh, wait, letter like tenant. Contract to live or work somewhere. Now I understand. 27A Awesome time: B(L/O)AST. Having a blast is a good thing. You can later boast about it. 10D Brief appearance: CAME(L/O). A brief appearance is a cameo. As the Australians know, camels tend to stick around. 51A Have a Pavlovian response: DRO(O/L). Ring the bell = getting fed. Can’t wait. Droll means “Curious or unusual in a way that provokes dry amusement.” Could work! Feeling like it’s more and more likely that it’s just across/down. 55A Moves like molasses: S(E/T)EPS. Molasses seeps. Oozes might be better. I don’t think of molasses as stepping. 56D Spud: (E/T)ATER. This can only be the TATER for potato. 62A Ancient unit of length: CU(B/T)IT. Cubit is a thing. I don’t think that there was any CUTIT measurement. 54D Petrol unit: LI(B/T)RE. Only can be LITRE.
38A Classic party game … or a hint to solving the answers that intersect circles: SPINTHEBOTTLE. Oh, now I get it! Clockwise, it’s T/B L/O E/T B/T O/L T/E
So much confusion today. Trump has been MIA and blocked on Twitter for most of the day and on Facebook, and Instagram for the two weeks. Information is coming out at a trickle, and I’d rather they just get rid of him so we can move on. He released a video on Twitter a little bit ago, and it sounds good if you’re optimistic and like a call to action if you’re not. It’s way too vague to be anything that brings me comfort.
OK so I’m still reeling from yesterday’s storming of the US Capitol, and I hope today starts our recovery as a country. There still were contests to counting the electoral votes last night AFTER all this went down. Absolutely absurd.
I pulled out 9A Outfit rarely worn out, for short: PJS for two reasons. The first reason is that it makes me miss college. I know I wasn’t the only one in the world to wake up right in time to bike to 8am Accounting Information Systems as long as I didn’t have to shower or change clothes. The challenge was, of course, staying awake for that hour and wondering why they decided every quarter to schedule the class about databases and flowcharts for that early in the morning. Ultimately it proved useful, and I’m happy I took it, but come on. The second reason is that in the COVID world, we’re not going out, so who even knew there were clothes other than pajamas?
The theme of this puzzle is crossing stuff out. It feels so topical.
16A Cocktail specification: WIXXXXWIST. 20A “Get your negative energy outta here”: DONXXXXE. 36A 2007 black comedy directed by Frank Oz: DEAXXXXAFUNERAL. 54A Fedoras, e.g.: FELXXXXS.
59A Words of correction … or a hint to 16-, 20-, 36- and 54-Across: STRIKETHAT.
16A WI[THAT]WIST. Some people find drinks to be more apeeling that way. 20A DON[THAT]E. Appreciate. Congratulate. 36A DEA[THAT]AFUNERAL. Never saw it. Probably should? 54A FEL[THAT]S: Hats are good for when you’re losing your hair. I’ve gotten really good at that in the last few years. Thanks, Obama!
Finished this one in 21:50 because it took me long to find that 28A Rare blood type, for short: BNEG was not ONEG, as a 23D Animal also called a steinbock: IBEX is not called an IOEX. Good to know.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Probably my least-favorite of this week’s WSJ puzzles this week. But an answer in this puzzle gave me reason to write a lot, so hooray!
I pulled out 39D Entertainer born Erik Weisz: HOUDINI. I got this answer immediately because I knew that one, but why did he choose Houdini as a name? It was after the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. We all know that Houdini wasn’t a magician but rather an escape artist. Robert-Houdin was a magician and a great one in the 19th century. But he did something unforgiveable that is part of his legacy and a good reminder as to the purposes of magic.
Some people think of magic as a trickery and things that are obvious if you just know how they’re done. As Penn & Teller’s Fool Us winner Seigfried Tieber said, “There are some people that when they know how something is done, the magic is lost. There are some people that when they know how something is done, the magic grows.” The idea here is that magic isn’t just mechanics but entertainment. Some people see the techniques as tools to create something new or entertain others.
Some people see a trick as a self-contained experience, and once you know that the magician found the card you picked because each card in every–and I mean every–standard deck of Bicycle cards actually has a little RFID chip in it and they sell the RFID readers only all the magic shops and the cheap ones cost $799 and the corresponding contact lenses that serve as the display only the magician can see are even more expensive, (go tear some cards up, and you’ll see the RFID chips I’m talking about) it’s no longer impressive.
The real thing is about the experience. How was the presentation? To many, knowing the secrets irreparably adds a disappointment to experiencing a trick. Magician Nick Dopuch related that magicians don’t keep secrets from the public but rather on behalf of the public. The key in it all that makes magic entertainment is the agreement the public has with the magician. In a magic show, the public dares the magician to deceive them. The audience is willing to be fooled. This is the same as watching anyone act.
Daniel Day-Lewis has won numerous awards for being the best at being people other than Daniel Day-Lewis. How many people are saying: “I know how he does it! He just pretends that he is from a place that he’s not from and uses an accent that isn’t the one he was born with or uses normally.”? We agree to watch someone pretend do something or have capabilities that we also know aren’t real or that they don’t possess. But Elizabeth Holmes told us that Theranos would be able to do all kinds of testing with very little blood drawn. A lot of people believed her. The results did not support her claims. She’s been indicted for many different types of fraud. Fraud is trickery but without the consent of the people who were tricked.
We rejoin the topic of Robert-Houdin in Algeria in the 1850s. Robert-Houdin had been sent there to stop a revolt against the French by the people in Algeria. A local tribe had been encouraging revolt and performed miracles to demonstrate the divine approval of their cause. Rather than deal with the revolt in a military effort, the French sent Robert-Houdin to out-miracle them. He did so by, among other things, demonstrating that he could make the strongest local there the weakest man there with an incantation. He instructed the local strongman to lift a small metal box. He did so without issue. After reciting something, Robert-Houdin asked the local strongman to lift the box again. No dice. As hard as the local strongman tried, the box could not be lifted. And when he tried again, he got an electric shock. This was because Robert-Houdin had built and buried an electromagnet that he activated on the second lift attempt. On the third attempt, he electrocuted the guy. Not to death, but still. With its leaders out-miractled, pushes for revolt lost steam.
The people of Algeria were not willing participants in this trickery. Robert-Houdin used magic in the wrong way.
This puzzle’s title is Got a Light?
1A Calcium Light Night” composer: IVES. Charles Ives (1874-1954) was an American composer who lived through WWI and WWII. He was also an insurance agent. A native of Danbury, CT, Charles Ives would have been eligible for a thrashing by John Oliver if Ives were alive(s?) today. 36A With 37-Across, fall of Rome aftermath, and a hit to the puzzle theme: DARK AGES. I’m actually not sure what else has to do with light in this one.
For a Thursday puzzle, this could have been a lot worse. I had some difficulties that made me think it was hopeless partway through, and I wanted to keep my streak going as long as I could. So I took it a little slower and go through it. I was as surprised as anyone.
I pulled out 5A Language in which a nutty person might be told “Yer bum’s oot the windae”: SCOTS because, um, what? My first instinct with “oot” was something to do with Canada. And because it’s all kinds of weird, I thought Newfoundland because Canada:USA::Newfoundland:Canada. Of course that doesn’t fit in this grid. So I figured it was across the Atlantic. GAELIC doesn’t fit and isn’t even right. I put IRISH in there, but that wasn’t working. Finally SCOTS worked. I knew it had to start with an S because 5D Flavor: Sp.: SABOR. I don’t like the SCOTS answer, but it fits, so credit to Will Shortz for making sure this is what was published.
I figured out the theme early, and without it, I’d have been totally lost.
In an unusual move, I’m presenting these in the order I solved them and not in numerical order.
7D Instrument featured in 36-Across: OBOE. It’s always oboe. Safe bet. 56A Like an unused air mattress: DEFLATED. A half-guess, and it looked OK, and it had EFLAT in it. The theme is about orchestral stuff and likely in the classical music genre. 36A Work suggested by this puzzle’s circled and shaded squares: BEETHOVENSFIFTH. I figured this has gotta be it. Just gotta be. I didn’t even have many crosswords for it. I also hoped that fifth was right. 2D Key to this puzzle’s theme?: CMINOR. I filled this out as I went. I started out with _M___OR. It’s A-G to start and either MINOR or MAJOR. I never remember which piece is in which key, but it usually resolves itself. Or I guess and make adjustments from there. 49D First name of this puzzle’s dedicatee, born December 1770: LUDWIG. Took me a little bit to remember dude’s first name. 44A Pudding flavor: FI(G). Because there weren’t enough squares for chocolate, vanilla, or swirl. The (G) is what matters here. 45A Big name in in-flight internet: (G)O(G)O: I like my free hour of internet with my T-Mobile plan. The (G) and (G) are important.