Saturday, January 26, 2013

Newsday 7:44 
NYT 6:37 (one error) 
LAT 3:47 (Andy) 
CS 5:36 (Sam) 

Australian puzzler David Astle, whose engaging and crosswordy memoir and discussion of cryptics and more is available in a Kindle edition (Puzzled), is working on a new book called The Great Clue Chase. The new work will be a celebration of 100 years of crosswords. He’s on the hunt for great stories from each of those years:

I’m getting there, slowly, with some great stories so far – crosswords with secret messages, with funny bloopers, eerie coincidences, crosswords in strange places, strange languages, a clue controversy, a bizarre word or phrase…. You get the drift. Any puzzle that stands out for some reason, like the well-known marvel of CLINTON/BOBDOLE by Jeremiah Farrell just has to be 1996. Or the great Max Beerbohm hoax – where the humorist provided bogus cryptic clues in the UK Times – was a lock-in for 1940. While the D-Day puzzle was a no-brainer for ’44.

They are the big guns. But I’m equally interested in the quieter, less known crossword things. Like a prison crossword. Was there a crossword in space? Did a couple first meet over a crossword? Was there some ‘SCUMBAG’ furore over a clue in North Dakota, back in 1983? An interesting editorial debate? Some unseen blowback?

I’m after suggestions – good stories, remarkable puzzles, flukes, backfires, Russian, Ninas, firsts and lasts – to help fill out the timeline. The best stuff has a year attached – the further back the better often – as well as neat story. I’m not reproducing puzzles – just sampling a clue or two, and telling the tale.

And to anyone who suggests a zinger, I’d be delighted to send them my new book – Puzzles and Words, a book of word origins and connected word puzzles.

People are welcome to get in touch through my site – or just post their responses in your own forum, and I’ll join the chat that way.

Raymond Young’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 26 13, 0126

A 64-word grid with four 9×4 stacks is ambitious. It’s got rather more zippy answers than I expected from the grid, but also a number of iffy answers. In the first category, we have:

  • 1a. [Rainbow event], GAY PARADE. More commonly called “pride parade,” no?
  • 17a. [One of a chain owned by Wyndham], RAMADA INN.
  • 19a. [“Unfaithful” Oscar nominee], DIANE LANE.
  • 32a. [What repeats in solemn hymns but isn’t in hymnals?], SILENT N.
  • 38a. [Shaking], QUIVERY.
  • 54a. [She told Willy Wonka “Loompaland? There’s no such place”], MRS. TEEVEE. Mike’s mom.
  • 12d. [It’s between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo], RIO GRANDE. In Cruciverb’s database, the ratio of RIO to RIOGRANDE is 429:4. Nice to see the full name. How come Anglos don’t call it “the Grande River”?
  • 13d. [Performance with nearly perfect pitch?], ONE-HITTER.
  • 29d. [Pre-takeoff command], ENGINES ON.
  • 38d. [Military hut], QUONSET. I love that word. It’s “onset” with a QU tacked on.

Now, the iffy category includes some ugly stuff in the 5-letter range, but the fill is notable for not having any “roll-your-own” words with RE- or -ER or -NESS or -LESS endings that seem not remotely familiar.

  • 10a. [Given orally, at law], PAROL. The Latinate/French root is familiar enough, but I don’t recall encountering this legal term before.
  • 16a. [Russian princess who was Nicholas II’s only niece], IRINA. Is she … famous? Important in history?
  • 36a. [“Indeed, mate”], RIGHTOH. Dictionary lists “righto” and “righty-ho” but this RIGHTOH looks wrong, oh.
  • 45a. [“The strain seemed doubly dear, / Yet ___ sweet”: Wordsworth], SAD AS. Unfamiliar and grammatically awkward partial.
  • 1d. [Monkey launched into space in 1958], GORDO. Wait, there’s another space monkey we need to know besides Enos?
  • 2d. [Repeated cry from Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet”], A SAIL. Not ringing a bell for me.
  • 25d. [Prepare to fire into the sky], AIM UP. Semi-random verb + preposition. Plus it crosses GAS UP.
  • 37d. [Mae West reputedly said this “is good to find”], HARD MAN. Isn’t this really a 7-letter partial and not so much a lexical chunk unto itself?
  • 46d. [Sounds that make frogs disappear?], AHEMS. Cute clue, but haven’t we been too accepting of plurals of exclamations? (See also: OHS, AHS, AHAS, OHOS, EEKS.)

Clues that didn’t help me much:

  • 6d. [100 fils], RIAL.
  • 10d. [No-spin particles], PIONS.

Clue that did help me, but that I still had to work for:

  • 57a. [American tribe that lent its name to a state], KANSA. The YUMAS and OTOES did not get states named after them.

Name I blanked on: Johnny OLSON, the [“Come on down!” announcer] on The Price Is Right. I could only think of Don Pardo and blithely filled in ORSON, guessing that Mercutio said AS AIR rather than A SAIL.

3.33 stars.

Updated Saturday morning:

Randolph Ross’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Poetic License”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, January 26

In today’s puzzle poetry, perhaps the highest form of writing, meets puns, perhaps the lowest form of humor. Four common terms are punnily twisted into new terms about poems:

  • 20-Across: What is the [Lament of the poor poet?] That RHYME DOESN’T PAY (a play on “crime doesn’t pay”). 
  • 25-Across: Is there a term for the [Strange part of a poem?]. yep, it’s called THE ODD COUPLET (from The Odd Couple, you know).
  • 42-Across: You know [How badly poets want to succeed?] IN THE VERSE WAY (“in the worst way”). 
  • 48-Across: When’s the [Best time for poets to make a living?] In THE GOOD ODE DAYS (“the good old days”).

These puns remind me of the riddles printed on Popsicle sticks nowadays. If you haven’t had one in a while, you may be missing out. The handle has a riddle written on the handle, and you have to eat the frozen treat to read the answer. (Don’t do it too fast, though–none of the riddles are worth a brain freeze.) I could easily see any of today’s theme entries as a Popsicle riddle. I suppose that’s high praise–not every riddle makes it to the big time like that.

I’m embarrassed at how long it took me to remember the [2012 World Series runners-up], the Detroit TIGERS. This kind of factoid used to be a gimme for me. But ever since I gave up fantasy baseball in 2010, I’ve more or less lost touch with the sport. The same happened to a lesser extent in 2008 when my then-local NBA franchise was relocated to a city in Oklahoma. But since I grew up a basketball fan just outside of Portland (where the Trail Blazers were and are the only major league sports franchise in town), my affinity for hoops at all levels hasn’t died down nearly as much. Maybe I can treat myself to a trip to an upcoming Hawks game as pre-ACPT research!

Favorite entry = LOW-END, a term synonymous with [Bargain-basement]. Favorite clue = [It may be added to impress] for IVE. Ugly, ugly fill made much more palatable thanks to great cluing!

Brad Wilber’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review

Los Angeles Times puzzle 1.26.13 by Brad Wilber

A quick review today. Another great offering from Brad, opening with the fresh NANNY CAM [Device hidden by a concerned parent]. The fill was similarly great throughout: some highlights for me were RAIL BARONS, MOLYBDENUM STEEL, “THE FIX IS IN!”, LANDLADY, COUTURIER the EMPANADA/DEADPAN crossing, CLOBBER, GUIDO RENI, and “BE YOURSELF!”. Some of the longer fill was less sparkling, but the clues made up for it (e.g., [Like the cap worn by Annette] (Funicello) for MOUSE-EARED).

I’ve got to get one of those turtlenecks.

It’s paid to know your ORIOLEs lately; this time it’s the [Bird that builds hanging nests], not the baseball player. [Guest in a library] is sentimental poet EDGAR, though perhaps he’s not the most famous literary Edgar. The [Largest island in the Cyclades] is NAXOS, which is geography trivia about an island usually given a Straussian clue.

Really nothing to complain about. If I’m digging, the partial A TIE isn’t pretty, but the clue [“___ is like kissing your sister”: sports chestnut] more than makes up for it. I’m giving this one 4.5 stars.

Until next week!

Barry Silk’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper”

Newsday crossword solution, 1 26 13 Saturday Stumper, Barry C. Silk

As is so often the case, the Stumper is indeed Saturday’s toughest themeless. It wasn’t a total killer, but every section of the grid involved a good bit of gazing at blank squares and working back and forth between Acrosses and Downs.

Things we may not have known off the top of our heads:

  • 17a. [”Points sur une carte”], ILES. “Dots on a map,” in French; islands in French.
  • 21a. [Monday through Saturday, in France], SCHOOL WEEK. Huh. The French school near me is not in session on Saturdays. And I thought they were supposed to be providing a French-grade education.
  • 22a. [Annual Kennedy Center celebration], KWANZAA.
  • 41a. [”Be yourself, nonstop” sloganeer], AMERICAN. As in nonstop flights? Okay.
  • 48a. [Three-Tony winner for ’91], MISS SAIGON.
  • 57a. [Federal Assembly vote], NYET. So Russia has a Federal Assembly, then?
  • 3d. [Where the National Anthem was written], CHESAPEAKE.
  • 4d. [”Crusade in Europe” author], EISENHOWER. WWII “crusade,” not the big-C Crusades of the Middle Ages.
  • 5d. [Woodworking tool], BOW SAW. Never heard of it.
  • 8d. [’50’s teen happening], RECORD HOP. Not sock hop? RECORD HOP? New to me.
  • 10d. [White side], SLAW. Really? Because usually cole slaw is very pale green with orange carrot shreds, no? I suppose the clue was supposed to trick people into RICE.
  • 13d. [”The Shot Felt ‘Round the World” subject], SALK. Polio vaccine shots.
  • 23d. [Word from the Mandarin for ”absorption”], ZEN.
  • 26d. [With 5 Across, Gore Vidal subject], AARON / BURR. I forgot. And even when I had the AARON part, I considered a backwards Hank Aaron.
  • 28d. [River through Philadelphia], SCHUYLKILL. Barry Silk Philly fill™.
  • 36d. [Egg-oil treatment], FACIAL. I presume that’s egg + oil and not some sort of oil extracted from eggs, but what do I know? “Egg-oil treatment” is not a phrase I’ve seen before.
  • 45d. [Syrup source for marshmallows], ROSES. Originally, marshmallows were made with the roots of the marsh mallow flowering plant.
  • 52d. [He’s depicted on Spain’s Academy Award], GOYA. Because why wouldn’t your film award statuette depict a painter? Who is the Oscar on the U.S. Academy Award statuette, anyway?
That is an awful lot of not-gimmes.

Among the trickiest clues is 46d: [Steadfast counter] for “I AM SO!” Something you say to counter a claim to the contrary.

Four stars.


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27 Responses to Saturday, January 26, 2013

  1. Howard B says:

    There can be a very fine line between fresh, original fill and invented, awkward, or otherwise made-up fill.
    Felt like this puzzle stepped over that line, then right on the line, then just obliterated it. By the time I hit MRS TEEVEE (trivia which I actually remembered!), I think my patience was kinda running low (depleted from RIGHTOH), and I still had that upper-right corner to contend with.

    All that said, there was still some interesting and otherwise unexpected stuff in there. For a Saturday, that all worked well to get the brain cells stirring :).

  2. Ethan says:

    I always thought the Willy Wonka character’s last name was spelled Teavee. The Wikipedia article is inconsistent but mostly spells it Teavee. Was there maybe a difference between the spelling in the book and film, respectively?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      That’s what I thought, too. Looked it up: Teavee in the book, Teevee in the 1971 movie, Teavee in the 2005 movie. Weird, but makes the answer defensible though not good.

      • Ethan says:

        Thanks for clearing that up. One might argue that the not good decision was Roald Dahl’s, in giving his character such a ridiculously on-the-nose name.

  3. john farmer says:

    RIO GRANDE….Nice to see the full name. How come Anglos don’t call it “the Grande River”?

    Not sure why, but we do call it the Rio Grande (one-syllable Grande, for me), and south of the border they call it the Rio Bravo. I think they call it that after the Howard Hawks-John Wayne movie.

    Two very tough puzzles back to back. I enjoyed the workout today quite a bit.

  4. sbmanion says:

    Tough for me and I did not get Mr. Happy Pencil. I had SCREWtACK crossing tRETT, which looked ok at the moment. My last letter was the A at the end of KANSa/STRIa. I never noticed that BRETT should have been obvious.

    Amy, one of the famous rules of contract law is the PAROL EVIDENCE RULE. It is a rule of contract construction, not evidence. If the parties have a written agreement that is their complete agreement, it cannot be altered by an alleged agreement either oral or in writing. And guess what? Lawyers, being lawyers, the rule is loaded with exceptions. Has the word “dehors” ever appeared in an NYT puzzle? The expression “dehors the contract” is sometimes used to describe the effort to restrict extrinsic terms that are not part of the written agreement.


  5. Matt says:

    The SCREWTACK/SCREWBACK choice was the last letter I filled in. There seemed to be a lot of one-letter either-this-or-that possibilities that made the puzzle tough to finish… OLSEN/OLSON, DIANE/DUANE, PLANO/PLANE, TEAVEE/TEEVEE… and I wasn’t overjoyed about that. On the other hand, I liked ZEROG, and I hadn’t heard that Mae West line before.

    • Huda says:

      I love that Mae West line, and it was my foothold into the SE area.

      The SW killed me, though. I must have been in some other zone when that Grace Under Fire show was on. I had no clue and needed to look it up afterwards.

  6. Ethan says:

    In the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet the “A sail, a sail!” part is fairly memorable. The guy who plays Mercutio is truly excellent in that film, although it doesn’t appear he had a very lengthy film career.

  7. Gareth says:

    Three errors for me: had only vaguely heard of RAMADAINN and so hoMADeINN looked plausible for some reason: GORDO/ASAIL/RIAL. Shrug. Well at least it doesn’t get called the Rio Grande River (like our Keiskamma)! I got PAROL/PIONS/IRINA, but only just.

  8. ArtLvr says:

    I really liked Brad’s LAT — MOUSE-EARED, CLOBBER, DEADPAN, THE FIX IS IN, SOURS, & NANNYCAM… Great fun!

  9. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Re School Week: When I was a kid going to the Lycée Hoche in Versailles, there was no school on Thursday or Sunday, and we met Saturday morning only. No weekend ski trips, I guess. I don’t know whether that schedule has been continued decades later, but it sounds as if something like it has been. Our school day was longer, except of course, in a more civilized place and time, there was a 2 1/2 hour lunch break, between noon and 2:30 when everyone went home. (I don’t think there was anything like a cafeteria but I’m not sure.) I will leave others to comment on the social and economic structure that schedule implies. My recollection is that the day went from about 7:45 – 12; and 2:30 – 5.

    One hated activity which could occupy one’s Thursday is that one could be “collé” (literally, “glued”; i.e. required to come to school and perform academic exercises (e.g. math problems, Latin translations, French grammar exercises, etc.) as punishment for some minor infraction. The usual duration of “le col” was 3 hours, as I recall.

    Interesting that this dovetails into the word “pions” in the NYT. French lycées employed “pions” as monitors and supervisors of students and student behavior. They were often the ones who imposed the col. (Hence the oft-repeated refrain “Merde. Je suis collé jeudi.”) The pions were often despised and mistreated, sometimes to the point of real cruelty by the students. There was one old guy, whom I now remember as a sad, depressed looking figure who was universally referred to as TDM. (Tay Day Em), short for “tete de merde.” But I doubt that a clue referencing this meaning would have been any more enlightening generally than the actual clue.

    • Huda says:

      Bruce, your post was a blast from the past for me… I went to a French school in Damascus, and the pattern echoed what you described… the main difference being that we had Friday and Sunday off (Friday in deference to the Moslem holiday), so that Saturday half day in between was particularly annoying. When I heard about the idea of an American weekend, I thought it was pure genius. But the rest, including being “collé” was the same.
      I still can only multiply in French…

  10. Zulema says:

    I am confused by REO and “Maxwell.” Are they cars, trucks, trains? No one mentioned it, so it must be something everyone knows? Not happy with this NYT, too many question-marked clues, DNF. Loved yesterday’s NYT.

    • Matt says:

      REO and Maxwell are old (1920’s) car brands– REO being the initials of Ransom E. Olds, progenitor of the Oldsmobile.

  11. animalheart says:

    Do you blog the Post Puzzler on Sundays? I guess it’s in a Sunday section of the paper that comes to subscribers on Saturday. I won’t spoil, except to say that I thought it was (will be) one of the best puzzles of the new year. NYT didn’t thrill me, though I got through it with no errors. RIGHTOH and most of the SW bugged me. I spent a long time wondering whether people really bring out their CROCS (those plastic clogs with holes in them) only when springtime arrives. Then the dawn came…

  12. RK says:

    Too much trivia undoes a puzzle Mr. Shortz.

  13. Jeff says:

    GAY PARADE? Um, no. I’m a gay man and I’ve never heard that term before. It’s a “gay pride parade” or a “pride parade.” Not a “gay parade.”

    That was among the least of my problems with this puzzle, though.

  14. Zulema says:

    Glad I was not the only one who didn’t like the puzzle. I knew REO but must have forgotten Maxwell, among other memories. Thank you.

  15. Mike Charley says:

    Hints to WSJ Sat:
    12) rr, 17) tt, 25) dd

    2) dd, 4) bb, 5) cc, 6) mm, 15) ss, 23) ll

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Finally got to the puzzle on Thursday. Was stuck on a few, but your 4-Down and 6-Down hints cleared up those two. Still pondering 1-Across, 1-Down, and 14-Across, which I think I know the answer to but can’t grasp how the clue gets me to it.

  16. Mike Charley says:

    Two more WSJ Sat hints:
    1) ll, 30) oo

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