Tuesday, 12/22/09

Jonesin’ 3:24
NYT 3:24
LAT 2:51
CS untimed

Robert Doll’s New York Times crossword

Region capture 27Today’s theme uses the drop-a-letter trick: Each theme entry originally began with an S but the S has been lopped off, changing the meaning of each phrase.

  • 17A. [Attendant at a ’50s dance?] is a sock HOP STEWARD. Labor unions have shop stewards, don’t they?
  • 22A. ELF-ESTEEM is a [Personnel concern for Santa?]. (Self-esteem.)
  • 51A. [Acupuncturist?] clues PIN DOCTOR, riffing on “spin doctor.”
  • 57A. MALL-MINDED is clued as [Addicted to shopping?]. (Small-minded.)
  • 10D. PARK PLUGS might be [Ads aimed at hikers and picnickers?]. (Spark plugs.)
  • 32D. [Money for liquor?] clues LUSH FUNDS. (Slush funds.)

There are a few answers that might’ve been considered easy fill decades ago, but that might be knotty for today’s newer solvers:

  • 13D. ANENT means “concerning” or “about” and is largely an archaic word. The clue here is [With regard to]. I’ll bet there are plenty of people who tried to get that corner to work with ABOUT.
  • 67A. NINON is a lightweight sheer fabric “used for curtains and women’s garments.” The clue is [Curtain fabric].
  • 35D. Holy cow, really? SEGNO? I suspect I have never before encountered this word. It’s clued as a [Musical repetition mark]. My husband was in band in high school, and he doesn’t know this word, either.

Selected clues:

  • 49D. [A spat covers it] clues an ANKLE.
  • 56A. [Injure, as the knee] clues the verb SKIN. Excellent slant for the clue.
  • 5D. [Henri who painted “The Dance”] is MATISSE. I love his style.
  • 33A. [Goofs], the plural noun, clues SLIP-UPS. I now wish to invent a snack food called Sly Pups.
  • 24D, 34D. [Botanist’s study] pulls double duty for FLORA and PLANT, no trickery.
  • 37A. BRIDE is clued as [One given away by her father, often]. Ick. Why isn’t “given away” always in quotes these days? The BRIDE is not her dad’s property.
  • 15A. Legal education for free! [Like slander, as opposed to libel] clues ORAL, as opposed to written.
  • 1D. Nothing like launching the puzzle with some crosswordese in the first square. [Morse T] clues DAH, which is another word for “dash” in Morse code. DAH’s partner DIT is a “dot” in Morse. And yes, “dot” and “dash” are perfectly easy words to remember and to say, so I don’t know why those other words were concocted.

Matt Jones’s Jonesin’ crossword, “Best of the Decade, Part 3: 2004-2005”

Region capture 26Matt’s decade roundup continues with a smaller group of theme answers. There are still five theme entries, but two of ’em are only 4 letters long. 1A is BLOG, which was Merriam-Webster Online’s word of the year five years ago. YouTube began in February 2005—doesn’t it seem like blogs and YouTube have been around for ages now? 21A is the movie HOTEL RWANDA, starring Don Cheadle. I like to pretend that his recent family movie, Hotel for Dogs, is the sequel. LOST HATCH OPENED is hard to parse in a crossword grid; I kept seeing LOS THAT CHOP… PARIS HILTON and the Usher/Ludacris song “YEAH” round out the list. Eh, I liked 2000-01 and 2002-03 better.


  • 62A. INVEIGLE is clued [Win over with flattery]. The word often has a sense of deception to it. But you’re so smart, you already knew that.
  • 8D. Lou FERRIGNO! He’s the [Lou who played the Incredible Hulk]. There are plenty of famous hearing-impaired musicians, but I can’t think of another actor in the category.
  • A MINUS, B MOVIE…E-LATER? [Online farewell?]? Okay, that last one’s the add-an-ER-ending ELATER, one who elates, and not E-anything. That’s blah, but I like the A MINUS letter grade and the B MOVIE a lot. If only we had a C CUP and D-LISTER to continue the series.
  • 39D. “NO BIGGIE,” [“Eh, I don’t mind”].

Updated Tuesday morning:

Donna S. Levin’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Vision Quest”—Janie’s review

Gosh, I had a good time solving this puzzle. The four theme answers all contain the word EYE (hence the title…) and are all evocative phrases in their own right; there’s very strong non-theme fill; and there’s an overall ease to the way the fill falls into place. Nothing felt forced in the solving experience, which speaks to the right balance of clue and fill. Casting no aspersions on folks who wear glasses, the four EYEs in question are found in:

20A. HAWKEYE PIERCE [Trapper John’s “M*A*S*H” tentmate].

35A. DEADEYE DICK [Vonnegut title protagonist].

42A. FISHEYE LENS [Camera accessory for wide-angle shots]. I’m not much of a camera buff, so I’d not taken time to think about why this name is so perfect–but there are our fish-friends with those very round, lidless eyes–and then are those very round panoramic images that a fisheye lens is capable of capturing.

58A. SOCKEYE SALMON [Piscine export from the Pacific Northwest]. It’s not clear to me whether or not sockeye actually refers to a particular way of seeing, but it is a name that’s derived from Halkomelen, an indigenous American language. Etymology aside, here’s everything else you wanted to know about the species.

So the eyes have it.  So to speak… We’ve got these four great -EYE names and then what does Donna give us as a (punny) bonus? Why, the HOLY SEE [Pope’s jurisdiction]. (Sometimes it takes so little to amuse me…)

But here’s what else is so good about this puzzle. Check out some of the other fill, like: CAST ASIDE [Spurn]; ACADIA [National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine] (Ever been? It’s bee-yu-ti-ful, especially if you need a break from the RAT RACE [Daily grind]. Maybe next summer, get yourself an E-TICKET [Evidence of an on-line flight reservation] to Bangor and get yourself over there for a taste of the great outdoors. You can get great post-hike popovers at the Jordan Pond House.); and SPEED DIAL [Place to store often-called numbers].

I liked the contemporary feel of “YES [WE CAN” (2008 campaign slogan)] and SICKO [Controversial 2007 documentary about the American health care system]. Yes, the movie preaches to the converted, but it’s also (you should excuse the expression…) eye-opening. Then there’s the classic feel of ESSE [Latin 101 infinitive], RHO [P-shaped Greek letter] and another Greek letter, OMEGA (even if it is clued today as [Swiss watch brand sported since ’95 by film’s James Bond]). Classic, too, is PORGY, the [Catfish row hero] of Porgy and Bess. Classic in another, crosswordese way, are constructing (and solving) essentials ILSA and IRMA, [Rick’s “Casablanca” inamorata] and [“___ la Douce”] respectively–not to be confused with Elsa and Erma [“Born Free” lioness] and [Humorist Bombeck] (respectively…).

In addition to the salmon, the menu today also includes LIMA, the [Succotash bean]; MAC [____ ‘n’ cheese]; EGGS [Necessities for a soufflé], remembering to separate the YOKE [Albumen’s shellmate] from the white (albumen…); an APPLE and the DRINK [Beverage] of your choice.

Clues that stand out for the images they conjure include: [Evil queen‘s offering to Snow White] for APPLE; [Long-necked trumpeter] for SWAN; [Like cobs and toms] for MALE; [Grier who was 25% of the Fearsome Foursome] for ROSEY; [Monstrous loch?] for NESS; and the “aha”-inducing [Something dropped by one who trips?] for LSD.

From start to finish, this one just TEEMS [Is rife (with)] lively fill!

Merle Baker’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Region capture 28This puzzle brings us our daily affirmations—six of them, in fact, all clued with [“Affirmative!”]. POSITIVELY! OF COURSE! YES, SIREE! BY ALL MEANS! OKEY-DOKEY! SURE THING! Light and cheerful, perfect for a Tuesday crossword.

Five clues:

  • 15A. [Explorer Sebastian]’s last name is CABOT.
  • 22A. The LARYNX is the [Vocal cords locale].
  • 43A. [Nightly ritual for many] clues PRAYER. With a few of those letters in place, I was thinking of a CHASER for a nightcap.
  • 58A. [Switchblade] clues SHIV. I associate this word mainly with Law & Order. Seems like a key witness or suspect was always getting shanked with a shiv in Rikers.
  • 47D. [Appennini locale] is ITALIA, the Apennine Mountains being in Italy.
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13 Responses to Tuesday, 12/22/09

  1. Martin says:

    The segno is a funny sideways-dollar-sign-with-two-dots kind of mark. Maybe “D.S. al fine” or “D.S al coda” will jog the band guy’s mind. They are indications to jump to the segno and play to the end or to the coda. It’s true that “segno” rarely is spelled out but appears as “D.S” (dal segno).

    Dit and dah are used when “speaking” morse code (as for teaching) for reasons of onomatopoeia. Try saying “dit-dah-dit-dah-dit-dah” and then “dot-dash-dot-dash-dot-dash.” Not only is the dit-dah version much faster, but it captures the sound of the code.

  2. mnemonica says:

    One other hearing-impaired actor of note: Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin of “Children of a Lesser God.”

  3. ArtLvr says:

    I believe SEGNO is just the Italian for “sign”, dal segno meaning “from the sign”.

    I started in the SW, so the trick seemed to be a letter substitution, not omission, as in LUSH MONEY for HUSH MONEY, but FUNDS became necessary immediately with WAIFS! And SLIP-UPS might have also have been SLIPS UP, but that was easy to fix also. Liked LOW-KEY, KNOLLS and UTOPIAN.

    KAT is my daughter’s name — I’m headed for Xmas at her place in Chicago tomorrow. Happy holidays to all!

  4. ledfloyd says:

    i had never before seen ANENT or NINON. i was aware of SEGNO but it’s rarely spelled out in music. as those above have said, it’s typically abberviated D.S.

  5. Tuning Spork says:

    I accepted ANENT, SEGNO and NINON as words only because the crossings made sense.

    I will not miss these “words” if I never see them again.

  6. tperki says:

    I have seen ANENT and knew about SEGNO as a musician. But NINON? Neither my wife nor I ever heard of it. Another word to add to the memory store. Gotta love crossword puzzles.

  7. Evad says:

    I conflated DAH and DIT as DAT and was struggling to figure out what a STOP STEWARD was.

  8. Gareth says:

    ANENT I’ve seen far more times than I’d care for, but it has VERY useful letters. SEGNO I have seen a few times. But I’ve never NEVER seen NINON – and it just looks goofy! But getting a pun-theme on a Tuesday is always good news. I think there are about 10,000 to choose from, but Robert Doll chose 6 of the best! PINDOCTOR is a master-stroke! To be honest I’d rather see a puzzle like this with a few obscure words but only 1 (!) abbr. that I count – ETAL, which is really quite respectable, than one stuffed full of convenient abbrs. but that’s just me.

  9. janie says:

    in fact, NINON last appeared in the nyt puzzle on tuesday, feb. 10th of this year, in a puzzle by john underwood. it was clued then as [sutrdy chiffon]…

    i kid you not…

    btw, i’m pretty sure that the february encounter was my first acquaintance with the that word. And isn’t it a pretty one at that?


  10. david says:

    “Dit” and “Dah” have saved many a Scrabble game for me; though I think they were coined as onomatopoeic alternatives to Dot and Dash. I know you guys are going to be all over me with other definitions, but to me, they clearly mean Morse Code, whereas “Dash” can mean a hyphen, a Morse-T (not an Ice-T) a sprint, a pinch of salt, and probably a ton of other things. Likewise Dot – a woman’s name, a period, a pattern …

  11. Zulema says:

    I agree with Gareth about abbreviations and the annoyance of their abundance in some puzzles.

  12. Howard B says:

    N.B.: Agree on the O.D.ing on abbr., (also var., etc.) in xwords.


    P.S. Ninon still seems to me like an off-brand Nikon camera you might find next to the Bolex watch at a street vendor or flea market.

  13. Ladel says:

    Not to worry David you did just fine with the morse code, Martin got it all right too regarding the use of Dit and Dah, and beat me with his perfect explanation.

    I think Boy Scouts and seekers of a private pilot’s license were the last two groups to give up on the code and give into the modernity of wireless electronic communication.


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