Wednesday, May 8, 2013

NYT 3:16 
LAT 5:13 (Gareth) 
CS 4:47 (Dave) 
Tausig untimed 

Bruce Venzke’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 5 8 13, no. 0508

Meh. This theme means well, but the phrasing is stilted:

  • 18a. [Remembered Mom, in a way], SHIPPED GIFT. Shipped a gift.
  • 31a. [Remembered Mom, in a way], MAILED CARD. Mailed a card.
  • 48a. [Remembered Mom, in a way], CALLED HOME.
  • 63a. [Remembered Mom, in a way], SENT FLOWERS.

I am dispensing with the flowers and gift and call, but spending Mother’s Day with both my mom and my mother-in-law, giving them their cards and hugs in person.

And I’m holding a warm thought for those of you who will be missing your moms terribly this Sunday, and for those of you who wish you were moms but it hasn’t worked out.

This puzzle is chock full of fill that skews old. ADELA, ELIA, Mr. MOTO, ERROL, UAR, ASTA, DOGFACE, ERLE … crosswordese EELER and LOA … even Kelly RIPA clued by way of a sitcom (which ended 7 years ago) that is no longer her most prominent TV job, when she is on TV every weekday morning with big-name stars making regular appearances. And HEP! Clued as if it’s just a word people use to mean [Not square]. Yeah, sure—maybe 50 years ago. Dictionary labels it an “old-fashioned” term for hip. I hereby declare this puzzle unhep. OH, ME. Wait, does anyone say those [Words of woe]? It’s right there with AH ME in the ranks of terrible “spoken language” crossword fill that is fiendishly hard to find people actually using.

I do like ALL RILED UP, and although HAROLD [Lloyd of the silents] is also a name from long-ago pop culture, he’s about as legendary as Buster Keaton so I am keeping him out of the ERLE ASTA class.

2.66 stars. The ungrammaticalness of two theme answers while the other two sound natural doesn’t work for me, and the fill left me lukewarm at best.

Updated Wednesday morning:

Lynn Lempel’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Nursery Rhymes” – Dave Sullivan’s review

I’m sure I’m not alone in my admiration for the work of constructor Lynn Lempel, who seems to consistently construct smart grids with very smooth fill.

CS solution – 05/08/13

Today’s theme is no exception–she twists the meaning of the title “Nursery Rhymes” a bit by taking items found in a nursery and then attaching a rhyming word to them. To wit:

  • [On the search for baby apparel?] clues BUNTING HUNTING – “bunting” isn’t in my everyday lexicon, except when preceded by indigo
  • [Quarrel over a baby toy?] clues RATTLE BATTLE
  • [Person peddling a baby accessory?] clues WALKER HAWKER – I bet there are people out there who don’t pronounce these as rhyming words. I think I pronounce the l of walk just a little bit.
  • [Nervousness shown by a baby’s caretaker?] clues SITTERS JITTERS – I imagine the alternate clue of [Baby’s caretaker’s toilets?] ended up on the bathroom floor.

Aren’t I pretty?

Four solid entries (with the minor exception of how closely “walk” rhymes with “hawk”) and a fun theme. My FAVE clue/entry was [Where a kite might alight] was a NEST. (I’m assuming the constructor is referring to the bird and not what Ben Franklin flew.) My UNFAVE is my confusion over the clue [Handmade floor covering] for HOOKE DRUG. Wouldn’t [Theory of springs physicist’s opiate?] be a lot more appropriate?

Marti DuGuay-Carpenter’s Los Angeles Times crossword

Los Angeles Times 130508

Simple theme today: PAPERTRAILS, interpreted as “The last word in each theme

  • 17a,[*”We’ve got this one!”],ITSINTHEBAG. Paper bag.
  • 24a,[*Mischievous child],PECKSBADBOY. Paperboy. No idea! Apparently from an old newspaper column. Quaint/American, but interesting phrase to learn!
  • 24a,[*YouTube piece],ONLINEVIDEOCLIP. Paperclip. Theme phrase feels made up to me.
  • 49a,[*India’s national animal],BENGALTIGER. Paper tiger: originally this phrase was coined by Mao Tse Tung to describe the United States, if I’m not mistaken.

Our other items of interest:

  • 1a, [Fabric named for an Asian capital], DAMASK. Tough clue: Damascas. Wanted Angora (the old name for Ankara) initially.
  • 34a, [Some PCs], IBMS. Is this still true?
  • 55a, [Soho stroller], PRAM. Also, everywhere else in the Commonwealth…
  • 66a, [Render powerless?], UNPLUG Runner-up clue of the day to 25d, [Sporting footwear], SHOD.The old part of speech misdirection, well-executed!
  • 4d, [Yard sale caveat], ASIS. The South African English word is voetstoots. From Dutch “push with your foot”. I don’t understand it!
  • 8d, [Seafood restaurant freebie], BIB. I probably go to the wrong seafood restaurants. I’m guessing the ones that give you free bibs make up for it elsewhere…
  • 13d, [Like marbled meat], FATTY. Marbling is fat tissue deposited between muscle fibres. When I studied abattoirs as part of my degree, we were told that marbling is considered desirable by American consumers but not South African ones. Thus our highest prices are for subjectively 1/2 out of 5 fat, whereas yours are at 5/5. Our beef derives its taste from being slaughtered much younger than yours… Sorry if that rabbit trail bored you, or, if you’re vegan, made you feel nauseous…

That’s all I’ve got! I’d call it a 3 star puzzle: Well-constructed, typical early-week crossword. Difficult to capture its flavour on screen!—Gareth

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well crossword, “Video Circuits”

Ink Well crossword solution, 5 8 13 “Video Circuits”

Nifty theme this week. PAC-MAN is an [Arcade game in which characters can pass through tunnels to get to the other side of the screen], and the circled squares contain the names of three of the game’s characters (PAC-MAN and two ghosts, PINKY and CLYDE), going off the grid at the right and continuing in from the left edge. The right-side-then-left-side theme answers are made-up phrases crafted to accommodate the game characters.

  • 18a, continuing in 17a. [“Praise Citizens United! Praise Citizens United!”?], SUPERPAC MANTRA.
  • 43a, continuing in 40a. [Personal lubricant for a druglord?], KINGPIN KY JELLY.
  • 69a, continuing in 66a. [Music fan concerned with expanding his mind as well as his body?], MUSCLY DEADHEAD.

I will dock the puzzle some points for repeating PAC-MAN in a straightforward grid entry and in the circled squares. But the puzzle picks up points for lively fill like ZOMG, the never-heard-of-it [Fubu alternative, in urban clothing] G-STAR RAW (expensive!), JAILBAIT, SVEDKA vodka ([Liquor with futuristic sexy robot ads]), KRAUT, JIFFY POP, TUSKEGEE University, and SIPPY CUP. Overall, let’s call it 3.8 stars.

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104 Responses to Wednesday, May 8, 2013

  1. janie says:

    but did you notice the message that reads diagonally from square 1? that’s a pretty mean construction feat, no?


  2. pannonica says:

    Harold Lloyd isn’t half the genius that Buster Keaton was. I guess that Chaplin guy was okay, too. And everyone (rightfully?) forgets Harry Langdon. I’d thought that Betty Hutton sang ‘ah, me’ in “His Rocking Horse Ran Away,” but it was just an ‘ah, well.’ Alas.

    The phrasing in this NYT seems very impersonal, no?

    • Lois says:

      Pannonica, I admire your deep film erudition even more than I admire your erudition in other matters, because film is one of my few intense interests. Although I might agree with you in this case about Keaton – I’m a big fan – I wonder whether you’ve seen many Lloyd films. (You may have, so to each his own.) They turn out to have many amazing, witty and hilarious gags and are well worth seeing. No need to disparage Harold Lloyd because Buster Keaton is great. If you’re in the New York area, Harold Lloyd films are often shown at the Film Forum. I’m grateful that Amy today classified Harold Lloyd as legendary rather than dated.

      On the other hand, I was thrilled to see “Adela” in the puzzle today (though I admit it was the second time I’ve seen it in a puzzle). I loved A Passage to India, book and film, and the tortured Adela Quested character.

      • pannonica says:

        Thank you for the complimentary words, Lois!

        H Lloyd inevitably rubs me the wrong way. Have seen at least Safety Last!, Girl Shy, The Freshman, as well as several shorts which I can’t remember the names of. I have a similar reaction to James Stewart, among others. Yes, I have strong opinions, and sometimes I choose to flex them.

  3. Huda says:

    NYT: After the first 2 theme answers, I thought it was some sort of add a letter or skip a letter theme. But then CALLED HOME and SENT FLOWERS emerged and that sounded pretty standard, so I was left wondering whether I was missing something.

    Ooh! I just read Janie’s comment! How clever! I WAS missing something!

    I liked the little Hawaii corner. May be I will get a trip to Hawaii for Mother’s day? Not likely… They’ll just CALL HOME. Actually, my favorite mother’s day memories are of my kids coming up with something creative — like my son doing a funny mime act, or my daughter sending me on scavenger hunt all over the house and yard with crazy riddles! Those were the best presents!

    UAR: It’s so weird to see it as crosswordese! I was a kid when it happened but I have some very vivid memories of Nasser coming to Syria, of huge demonstrations welcoming him, and then of the atmosphere turning against the union. My father and his friends (some of whom were influential in the government) talked about the goings on incessantly. And when I looked it up in Wiki, I realized that I had met some of the main players as a child (it’s a small country :). But UAR actually means something to me!

  4. Martin says:

    And if you look closely, you can also spell out “GET OFF MY LAWN”.



  5. John says:

    I’m here to say that I love crosswordese. I get tired of all the complaining about crosswordese. Crosswordese is the mother’s milk to solvers. Asta was cute. Ripa is cuter. Adela I can live without . I never read the book and did not like the movie. Big disappointment in the wake of The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia. What really frosts me is when I see UNSTOPS. Lawyers love speaking in double negatives but even they wouldn’t say UNSTOP. Ugly, Next is line is EELER. That’s not crosswordese. That’s just obnoxious. How about trouter? Or grouperer? Of course there are whalers but a Mainer never says lobsterer. Now I have to admit that I didn’t catch the diagonal. But, unlike Monday’s, I don’t want to burn the puzzle. It’s a Wednesday. I have lots of forgiveness for Wednesday. This one was easy and a timely reminder to be nice to your mothers this Sunday. Mine is no longer around and I keep telling my wife she’s not my mother. But I’ll still need to do one of the four on the checklist. She likes flowers but loves cash more. Didn’t see cash in the puzzle. Probably crosswordese anyway.

    PS to Amy, I finally read your late reply on Monday and have no clue why you said what you said. But I appreciate the sentiment.

    • Martin says:


      One difference is that “eeler” is a word while neither “trouter” or “grouperer” is. In fact, you can apparently decide to go into eeling as a career and major in it at college.

      But I don’t get the grammar digs against the theme entries. They’re errands you completed. “Shipped gift. Check. Mailed card. Check. …”

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        Do you fill your to-do list with items in the past tense?

        • Martin says:

          No, but when I review them to make sure I did them all I do. I can’t argue that it sounds odd to some people. It just made perfect sense to me, is all.

  6. Martin says:


    Will Shortz has, IMHO an apt comment about the young vs. old crossword issue over at Rex’s blog.


    • John says:

      Saw that, too, Martin. Agree.

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        So, older people have an innate fondness for ELIA and EELER that young people just don’t share? I call shenanigans. They’re old *fill*, not words beloved by people who’ve been around a few decades longer than me. Anyone nostalgic for OH ME?

        • Brucenm says:

          As a potential target of this focus group, I hereby disavow any fondness for the words ‘Elia’ or ‘Eeler’. But I understand the constructors’ eternal quest for vowels, and tolerate those words accordingly. Along those lines here’s a helpful hint to constructors: (I may have mentioned these before).

          There’s a distinguished Japanese conductor named Eiji Oue (well, maybe semi-distinguished); and a Hong Kong based pianist named David Oei.

          • Gareth says:

            I admit being tempted by Oea, the ancient (Carthaginian [fact-checked: Phoenician]) name for modern day Tripoli…

          • pannonica says:

            Meet Ia io (I’ve shared this with Gareth before):

            great evening bat

          • Bencoe says:

            I understand that most crosswordese is a matter of convenience to the constructor. Also that it helps experienced solvers, with clues and answers we’ve all seen before. But I think it is a huge barrier to new solvers. My wife became interested in solving crosswords after we visited the ACPT last year, and now I spend a lot of time explaining things like the name of Prince Valiant’s wife and why a clue referencing lamb usually ends up being Elia. These are like in-jokes which keep a lot of people out of the crossword world because they think they aren’t smart or well-read enough, even though it has nothing to do with that.

          • Amy Reynaldo says:

            Exactly, Ben. There is all sorts of fill that’s right at home in the Monday NYT or LAT that is just plain not used in the Daily Celebrity Crossword for which I’m one of the editors. Not just ELIA and EELER and ALETA, but words like ASEA that look so plausible but in fact are rarely seen outside of crosswords. We do this specifically so that crossword newbies will not turn away, feeling dumb because they don’t know those words. There is no reason they should know such things, so why pepper puzzles with them? It is much harder to make puzzles without the ENOLs and ESTERs, mind you—but they’re easier to solve.

        • Martin says:


          The point is that what the “good-fill” brigade calls bad fill is a characteristic of older puzzles. There were (and are) solvers who miss UNAU (“Two-toed sloth”) and WUN (var. of WOON, “Burmese governor”) and LLYN (“Welsh lake”) . They miss AAMS (an ancient Dutch weight) being clued as merely “Unit.”

          I know you’re not fond of these old Maleska and earlier puzzles. I recently litzed about 300 Will Weng and Margaret Farrar puzzles and do enjoy learning all this weird stuff. But every one of those puzzles has fill much “worse” than LIFEBUOY (which Rex derided because, even though it’s still marketed in the US, is only manufactured in Cyprus. That makes it a bad entry? Really?)

          I love BEQ’s puzzles. But I also enjoy Will Weng’s. And I think Will is pointing out that to characterize them merely as good-fill/bad-fill is elevating a preference to the level of moral imperative.

          • Ben Tausig says:

            I’m looking forward to writing about this very subject in the book I’m working on now for Race Point. Specifically, I am interested in what passes for common knowledge in the universe of crosswords, and how that has changed over time and why.

            I agree with Martin that fill decisions are not a moral imperative. But I also think it’s a mistake to fully relativize the question as a matter of taste. There are reasons for trends in filling that have to do with how we value different kinds of knowledge, as well as with how we police the gates of intelligence. AFAIK, no one has ever written or spoken in great detail about those reasons.

            If anyone wants to chime in, either with specific information or conjecture, I would love to hear from you, and will gladly cite your name if you offer something substantial.

          • John says:

            My opinion on “crosswordese” is that it should fall into one of two categories, preferably both

            1: It’s well known

            2: It’s important

            For #1, no one will blink an eye at it. For #2, it allows for a fresh spin on the clue. “First person to build ____, first person to do ______, person who said “____”, _____ in the news.

            This is just my opinion, but overall, I think it’s pretty hard to disagree with.

          • john farmer says:

            “I agree with Martin that fill decisions are not a moral imperative. But I also think it’s a mistake to fully relativize the question as a matter of taste. There are reasons for trends in filling that have to do with how we value different kinds of knowledge, as well as with how we police the gates of intelligence.”

            I agree that these discussions about language and culture are more than just a matter of taste. Ultimately, I think it’s about identity — who we are and how we see ourselves.

        • *David* says:

          There are two conversations mixed in here, one referencing crosswordese and one discussing general usage of words or phrases. The two do cross over each other but I am much more interested in the latter then the former.

          There is no question that you can recognize a Bernice Gordon or Jack McInturff constructed crossword for example and say that much of the fill feels dated without even reading the byline. Excluding the intellectuals and the fanboys the sub-40 crowd has a definite different interest level then the older generation.

          The permeation of multi-media into every nook and cranny of our lives has made entertainment related trivia primary. This over arching general category includes much more then the traditional categories normally thought of . I think of on-line videos, sports, cutesy pormanteau words, and memes all in this category. This does allow for a wealth of fresh fill with the flip side being that the expiration date for most of this stuff is less then week old milk. Gangnam Style was all the rage in August but in November it was tiresome and did anyone really watch Gentleman? The constructors that chase this new fill understand that next year, this fresh fill will look like it is circa 1970. The practical consequences as we switch in this direction is that our crosswords will begin to reflect our culture and have ourselves wondering what sort of puzzles were we solving five years ago.

          • Gareth says:

            There are constructors that, if they’ve used a lot of proper nouns, I know I’m in for a battle! It’s not always age-related, though it frequently is. Jack McInturff is one example. Another is actually the above/below HH. His wheelhouse and mine don’t seem to align much!

            The one-hit wonder is far from a new phenomenon. Anyone care to name the second singles of Edison Lighthouse, Joe Dolce or Danny Wilson?

      • Katherine says:

        I shudder to think that we’re policing the gates of intelligence.

        Substantive, rather than substantial?

  7. pannonica says:

    Kind of surprised IRENE and/or DUNNE didn’t make an appearance in the NYT.

  8. Katie says:

    This one went over my head. I would be grateful if someone could explain this to me:

    Clue: _____ fixe (Paris preoccupation)

    Answer: IDEE

    Thanks ever so!

  9. Gareth says:

    Pannonica you’re slipping… No mention of the 100% inaccurate clue for EELER. Lampreys are as much as eels as humans are crocodiles… Puzzle was not for me (I don’t expect every puzzle to be); don’t need something else trying to guilt trip me into celebrating some made-up-by-Hallmark holiday.

    • pannonica says:

      Ha! I know that, but wasn’t sure if someone who fishes for them (does anyone do so?) might in fact be called an EELER despite the biological inaccuracy. And I wasn’t motivated to look it up.

      • Gareth says:

        Hmm… I thought of that only after I posted… My vote is we should call them lampredators!

      • Martin says:

        BTW, lamprey eeling is a big deal in Europe. Almost always prepared (in France, Spain and Portugal) in their blood, it sounds like a really disgusting meal. I am pleased to report that the version I once had in Portugal was delicious.

        Henry I of England died of eating “a surfeit of lampreys.” The Romans enjoyed them so much they “farmed” lampreys. A friend of Augustus’s, Vedius Pollio, is known for his cruelty. He fed his lampreys slaves he wished to dispose of. Vedius gave eelers a bad name.

    • Martin says:

      C’mon! “Eel” has a very common sense that means “snake-shaped fish.” In fact, this sense is much more common in non-technical speech that “member of Anguilliformes order.” “Lamprey eel” is a synonym of “lamprey.”

      • pannonica says:

        Martin, my crossword-related eel bugbear is clues that suggest electric eels (also taxonomically not eels) are saltwater denizens (“marine,” “sea,” etc.). I will continue to call them out as long as they persist.

        • Martin says:

          With you on that one. I have sent letters to more than one editor pointing out that a marine electric eel would die a horrible death the first time it generated current.

      • Gareth says:

        I’ll concede based on what’s been said that EELERs as clued is legit. I would still complain if EEL were clued as [Lamprey, e.g.], just as much as if BEAR were clued as [Koala, e.g.] even though people commonly call(ed) them bears.

        • pannonica says:


        • Martin says:

          I don’t get that at all. The domain of crosswords is the common use of language, not technical use. We all agree that the dictionary is the arbiter. We three might be unhappy that people don’t generally recognize how far removed a jawless fish is, evolutionarily, from unagi but that can’t be a concern for a puzzle editor. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we expanded the acceptable authorities to all technical works!

          • John from Chicago says:

            Martin, I remember the time you couldn’t find support in any dictionary and you resorted to Wikipedia. Are you now admitting you were wrong then?

          • pannonica says:

            When the common use promotes blatant (a loaded and subjective choice of adjective, I’ll confess) misinformation, and that information is easily avoided (that is, reworded) without degrading the clue, then I feel it’s worthwhile to avoid that misinformation.

            Obviously, the production and distribution of crosswords doesn’t have the budget for fill-scale fact-checking departments, nor can constructors and editors be expected to be experts on all subjects, but these minor changes—allow me to call them improvements—can have a cumulative effect over time.

            Crosswords have a reputation for being a somewhat intellectual pursuit and pastime, though they shouldn’t be arduous or pedantic experiences, so why shouldn’t they be in a sort of gentle language vanguard?

            (Couldn’t resist pointing out the commonality of letters after noticing it while typing.)

          • Martin says:

            “Lamprey eel” is not misinformation. It’s not wrong. It’s just not a scientific term. It’s been used for centuries, probably since before there was recognizable science.

            It’s a very slippery slope to say that the dictionary is not the arbiter. Imagine having to get this group to agree on the accuracy of every clue. Crosswords would go extinct very quickly.

            Then there’s the fact that the more technical a definition you choose, the quicker it’s apt to be wrong. Taxonomy has never been more fluid than it is today. Consider this little gem, a bobtail snipe eel. It was a true eel (in order Anguilliformes) until recently, when its family, Cyematidae, was moved to order Saccopharyngiformes. To be pure enough to be sure, we’d have to see a lot of Sargasso Sea clues.

            Which is the other point: “strictly correct” is necessarily the enemy of fresh, since you’re limiting the possible range of clues.

            Anyway, here’s the bobtail snipe eel’s new order-mate, the pelican eel, or pelican not-an-eel. Whatever we call it, it’s pretty awesome.

          • pannonica says:

            As you said in an earlier comment, “lamprey eel” is a synonym for “lamprey.” This is ostensibly correct, but you cannot deconstruct it and maintain that equivalence. That is, just because lamprey eel is a synonym for lamprey it does not necessarily follow that lamprey is a synonym for eel.

            cf Gareth’s mention of “koala bear,” earlier, and mine the other day of “cattle egret.”

          • pannonica says:

            Here’s another, hopefully more explicit example:

            Glass snakes are lizards. Would you then approve of saying that snakes are lizards?

            addendum: Actually, this isn’t such a great example since it doesn’t parallel the construction well enough. I hereby recant it.

          • Martin says:

            Implicit in “lamprey eel” is that a lamprey is a kind of an eel. This is consistent with the sense of eel: “any of numerous other elongate fishes.”

            Lamprey is not a synonym of eel, but it’s a kind of eel. That’s good enough for the clue. After all, a professional eeler is expected to specialize.

          • pannonica says:

            In that case, I reinstate my glass snake example.

   provides the following helpful sense:

            snake (n.)

            3 : something (as a plumber’s snake) resembling a snake

          • Martin says:

            If this dicussion were with my wife, I would have said “yes” long ago, so I’m obviously pretty bad at applying life lessons to varying circumstances.

            So I’ll bite. Do you have a glass snake clue on the table? Keep in mind that you need to avoid the sea anemone trap: while a lamprey is a kind of eel (per the dictionary), a glass is not a kind of snake. Language is funny like that.

          • pannonica says:

            That, Martin, was the very reason for my short-lived redaction.

            Nevertheless, the point holds. Glass snake—like lamprey eel vis à vis eel—has a synonymy with lizard only when the two-part name is intact. A glass snake is not a snake, nor is a lamprey eel an eel, despite the former having the shape of a snake and the latter that of an eel.

            Perhaps you’re distracted by the repetition of “eel”?

          • Martin says:

            Nope. I’m just citing the dictionary. It lists lamprey, lamprey eel and eel, all consistent with the statement “a lamprey is a kind of eel.” There are no such entries to support “a glass is a kind of snake” or even “a glass snake is a kind of snake.”

          • pannonica says:

            The definition for lamprey merely says “any of a family (Petromyzontidae) of eel-shaped freshwater or anadromous jawless fishes”

            The definition of eel, sense 1b, reads: “any of numerous other elongate fishes (as of the order Synbranchiformes)”

            I find that rather tenuous and don’t feel that they, even taken together, adequately support the statement that “a lamprey is a kind of an eel.” Sense 2 of eel is ” any of various nematodes (as the vinegar eel).” Will you now assert that a nematode (definition: any of a phylum (Nematoda or Nemata) of elongated cylindrical worms parasitic in animals or plants or free-living in soil or water) is equally a “kind of an eel”?

          • Martin says:

            If you click on the dictionary link in my post at the top of this thread, you’ll see an entry for “lamprey” that includes the words “called also lamprey eel.” That’s what’s different. Lamprey and lamprey eel are synonyms. Vinegar and vinegar eel are not.

          • pannonica says:

            Once again, “lamprey eel” ≠ “eel”.

            “Koala” and “koala bear” are synonyms in just the same way as “lamprey” and “lamprey eel,” but koalas are not bears. We’ve been here before.

          • Martin says:

            You’re right.

          • pannonica says:


          • Dan F says:

            [polite applause]

          • Katherine says:

            Shall we now turn to the statement ‘Taxonomy has never been more fluid than it is today.’?

          • pannonica says:

            Let us not open that can of eels, shall we, Katherine?

  10. cyberdiva says:

    Janie’s point about the diagonal message makes me considerably more enthusiastic about this puzzle than I had been. Until then, the best thing I could say about the puzzle is that I finished it in what for me was record time (which, I guess, is both a plus and a minus).

    I do have one objection no one else has raised: REAR as the answer for “Sit on it.” Shouldn’t the answer follow the same grammatical structure as the clue? REAR can be a verb, but not one that means “sit on it.” ??

    • Martin says:

      That’s another way this puzzle was a but old-fashioned. There are two clue forms that literally violate the rule of grammatical substitution. On is the “kind of” clue (which many people have heard me call the “sea anemone” clue because SEA may be clued as “Kind of anemone”). The other is the “it” clue, where the final word of the clue is “it,” which signals that the entry is the object of the verb. “Dig it” is a representative “it clue” for ORE, for example.

      These are conventions that you must learn to recognize. That’s why I don’t like them. They violate the normal order of things that says you don’t need to know any secret “rules” to solve an American crossword.

      HH continues to use a third old rule that WS doesn’t seem to: the letters “O” and “I” may be the digits “0” and “1” in one direction.

      • HH says:

        Not so much with I’s/ones, unless other nonbinary digits are involved. And one thing I won’t tolerate is the letter I doubling as a numeral 1 in a context in which a numeral 1 would (almost) never be used. In my editing days, I rejected a puzzle because the constructor used [Kind of street] with the answer IWAY. That’s wrong on several levels.

  11. H says:

    A less than perfect puzzle is good for the blog business :)

    Gareth, I resist Valentine’s Day as a made by Hallmark occasion. But Mother’s Day? I wonder if yours falls on a different day? It does in other parts of the world, and I remember calling my late mother on the American mother’s day and then not calling her on her local Mother’s Day. I wonder how she felt about that– It makes me feel bad, now that I think about it.

  12. janie says:

    i think i was a junior in college when i discovered edna st. vincent millay — and even set several of her sonnets and other poems to music (guitar; it was the ’60s). do check out the concluding thought…

    “Being Young And Green”

    Being Young and Green, I said in love’s despite:
    Never in the world will I to living wight
    Give over, air my mind
    To anyone,
    Hang out its ancient secrets in the strong wind
    To be shredded and faded—

    Oh, me, invaded
    And sacked by the wind and the sun!

    does this, then, make OH, ME “perfect” fill? justify its xword cred? mebbe. to some. mebbe not. but i think we’re on a really slippery slope when it comes to “what people say” and whether or not it’s worthy xword fill.

    and yes — ditto what huda said: A less than perfect puzzle is good for the blog business :)


  13. Papa John says:

    I’m baffled why so many missed the diagonal clue/fill. In the Across Lite version, which I did, there’s a message saying: “The print version of this puzzle contains the following additional clue after the Across and Down clues: DIAGONAL 1 – Annual message.” Unless that’s an outright lie about the print version, everyone was told there’s a diagonal solve.

    After getting the second P in the diagonal, I dived bombed the rest of the fill and, it turned out, I was right – Happy Mother’s Day!

    • pannonica says:

      It’s easy to miss the little notepad icon.

      • Papa John says:

        Really? Given that you notice every nuance, every subtlety, and every wrinkle in every letter of every clue/fill in every puzzle, I’m surprised you didn’t catch that. (I mean that in the sweetest way.)

        It jumps out at me as soon as I open the file.

        So why do you suppose dead tree solvers missed it?

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          I use Black Ink rather than Across Lite. It has no yellow notepad icon! The only way you’d know is if you click on the View menu and “Show puzzle notes” is not grayed out. I pretty much never need to use the View menu, so…

        • pannonica says:

          I certainly don’t notice everything, nor every thing.

          As for the on-paper solvers, is there evidence that any of them missed it? Specific disclosure, I mean.

          • Papa John says:

            My sweet mutterings about you were hyperbole, based on your very thorough analyses of themes and clues. I’m impressed.

            No specifics, but I have this notion that Huda uses paper and pen.

          • Lois says:

            I’m an on-paper solver who missed the diagonal for the longest time. I really don’t know why. I’m not a very skilled solver, and had already been back and forth between the across and down clues a few times before I saw the diagonal clue. Maybe I wasn’t that thorough or systematic today, but anyway I didn’t see it, though there it was in bold in the paper.

    • cyberdiva says:

      I was really surprised when I saw your message, since I use Across Lite and saw no such message. I therefore went back and looked again, and you’re right–off on the left, where I never look, there was the message you quoted, but I NEVER look there. I just click on PLAY and then choose the option to download and play on Across Lite. There was no Notepad icon on the puzzle, nor any indication on the puzzle itself that there was an additional diagonal message that would appear after the puzzle was solved. In the past, there has always been a notepad icon on the puzzle. Perhaps its absence from my puzzle this time has to do with the [expletive deleted] “improvements” the Times made a few months ago? I don’t know. But thanks for pointing this out.

      And thanks too to Martin for the helpful response to my objection about REAR.

  14. HH says:

    Has anyone mentioned that the true purpose of crosswordese is so that I don’t have to waste so much time writing crosswords?

  15. Papa John says:

    I think the diacritical double dots above a letter are called an umlaut or dieresis. Can I use the ASCII code for it on this blog?

    Wait, let me try – Iäna. (Looks like it does work.)

    So here’s my question or, rather, plea for help. I ran across Iäna in an old 19th c., unpublished manuscript entitled, “Anacalypsis: …an inquiry into the origins of languages, nations and religions”, by Godfrey Higgens. In it the author describes Iäna as an ancient Mesopotamian goddess and suggests that it is the ultimate origin for the modern name, Jane. My online research hasn’t been able to confirm this. Most name etymologies that I’ve found online only go back to Medieval Latin Johanna. Many of you who read this column are much more adept with Web searches and I was hoping one of you would be so kind to see if you might be able to dig up more info re Iäna. I come up with nothing; except Iäna may be another name for Innana, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare.

    I’m interested in this because, as part of an exhibit I had, called “The Higgens Suite”, I did a piece for my wife and I titled it “Iäna”. Her name is Jane. I would like to corroborate Higgens assertion.

    Oh, yeah — and I’d like to know how to pronounced Iäna.

    Contact: papajohn123(at)centurylink(dot)net

    • Martin says:

      Iäna looks more like another spelling for E-ana, the temple of Inanna. As the goddess of all sex except marital sex, Inanna was the patron of prosititution. I’m not sure you want to pursue the Jane link further.

      • Papa John says:

        I’m more concerned about Iäna’s attribute as the goddess of war, really…

  16. John from Chicago says:

    I noticed there are other Johns so I changed my name to distinguish me, not that I am distinguished.

    I still love crosswordese. I need then for crosses for answers I don’t know.

    Martin, I put eeler in the same category as killer. They both have professionals.

    Have I mentioned how much I dislike seeing “hillbilly” as a clue or in the grid? Will should be ashamed!

    Speaking of eels, I am reminded of when we moved to Connecticut. We had a pond with a stream that wound its way to Long Island Sound about a mile away. When we moved in we had a muskrat problem. So I found a trapper. One day he’s in the pond in a boat pulling in his traps and reels in an eel. He screamed like a frightened schoolgirl who saw a mouse, dropped the whole thing, rowed in and I never saw him again. I guess we can call him an UNEELER.


    • HH says:

      “Have I mentioned how much I dislike seeing “hillbilly” as a clue or in the grid?”

      If you dislike seeing “hillbilly” as a clue or in the grid, you might be a redneck.

      • Bencoe says:

        I’m from North Carolina originally. Lived in a small town in the Smokies. My parents and brother still do.
        Although many people use the term “hillbilly” in a derogatory fashion, most ACTUAL hillbillies wear the term as a badge of honor. See the documentary Hillbilly featuring a friend of my mother’s, the famous bootlegger Popcorn Sutton. Or hillbilly music of the 30s and 40s, exemplified by Maddox Brothers and Rose.
        The term “cracker” has a similar resonance here in Florida. While most people use it like the word “redneck”, the Florida crackers are justly proud of their heritage as the first settlers of our state.

        • John from Chicago says:

          Hi HH,

          Martin likes to cite the dictionary, so here is what you will find about hillbilly at
          1. Often Disparaging and Offensive. a person from a backwoods or other remote area, especially from the mountains of the southern U.S.

          World English Dictionary
          hillbilly (ˈhɪlˌbɪlɪ)

          — n , pl -lies
          1. derogatory usually an unsophisticated person, esp from the mountainous areas in the southeastern US

          I can assure you that when I was growing up in Chicago and was called a hillbilly by the other kids merely because my parents were originally from Kentucky, they were not complimenting me.

          • HH says:

            I didn’t say it wasn’t disparaging or offensive; I was just saying “So what?”

            And besides, how many hillbillies solve the Times crossword?

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      John, I laughed at your eel story.

      My in-laws have had an armadillo problem in Florida.

  17. Maikong says:

    Dave —

    Try Hooked Rug in place of Hooke Drug

    Thank you and Amy for doing CS again —

  18. Brucenm says:

    77 Comments!!!!!! Holy S***. (Not to say Holy Hillbilly).

    Amy what’s the record for the most posts in a day?

    (Doing my part to help contribute to a possible record-breaking effort.)

    Incidentally, the term “redneck” has a fascinating history and etymology. It is often traced to attempts by mine workers to unionize in West Virginia in the early 20th century. Mine workers, marching on the mine owners’ headquarters in the cities, would wear red bandanas around their necks as a kind of uniform to identify themselves and express solidarity with each other.

    But I have a murky recollection, (which I suppose I could look up), that it was used by a faction in late 17th Century Scottish religious conflicts and schisms, which presaged more general Scottish and English religious wars and conflicts. It was something grisly about nicking one’s own carotid artery, causing the predictable bright red collar. I’m probably garbling some of this. But the theory is that Scottish immigrants in the coal mining regions in this country were already familiar with the term, and perpetuated it. (The essential identity between some forms of Appalachian bluegrass music and some forms of Scots-Irish music is obvious.)

  19. Meem says:

    Wow! Just clocked in after a day of chasing details (e.g., visiting the ophthamologist). And after reading all of the above, must declare today’s participants on Team Fiend persnickety! I solve with pen on paper after downloading from the website. The “About This Puzzle” was there, but I was moving so fast I failed to notice it. Which makes this puzzle generally uninteresting. Count me in with the group that argues in favor of common usage, not specialized education/training/interest. My knock on today’s puzzle is the fill. 9D, 14A, 39A, 67A, etc. Now I need to go see what Will had to say.

  20. John from Chicago says:

    Now I realize HH stands for Henry Hillbilly.

    Thanks, Amy. We also had a huge snapping turtle in the pond that feasted on ducklings. You know people who go after those are called TURTLERS.

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