03.31.08

AIR


Waterloo Bridge, Effect of Fog, 1903 -- Claude Monet


Plein air -- a French term for "in the open air," describes paintings that have been made outdoors, rather than in a studio, a key method of the Impressionists.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Puzzle by Jeff Armstrong, edited by Will Shortz

AIR (36A. Word that can precede each half of the answers to each of the eight starred clues) is the star clue in this breezy Monday puzzle. The inter-related entries are FORCEFIELD (18A. *Sci-fi barrier); DATELINE (20A. *Newspaper article lead-in); SHOWTIME (28A. *When the curtain goes up); HEADLOCK (41A. *Wrestling move that puts an arm around someone’s neck); MAILDROP (50A. *Secret communication location); SPACECRAFT (54A. *Mars Pathfinder, for one); BASEBALL (4D. *Diamond game); and SPEEDWAY (37D. *Indy 500 venue).

O.K., redundantly, air force, air field, air date, airline, air show, air time, airhead, airlock, airmail, airdrop, air space, aircraft, air base, air ball, air speed, and airway.

I was talking to my nephew while writing this, and for whatever it’s worth he called my attention to the
MacBook Air, and a parody of the ad, HERE. I guess the ultimate would be to disappear into thin air!

As for this puzzle, I think you’ll find that it was a real breeze!

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For today’s cartoon, go to
The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.30.08 -- the Acrostic

Fool


From the cover of “Fools Are Everywhere…”
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

ACROSTIC
Puzzle by Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon, edited by Will Shortz


This delightful Sunday acrostic anticipates the advent of
April Fools’ Day with a quotation from a paragraph of “FOOLS ARE EVERYWHERE: The Court Jester Around the World” by Beatrice K. OTTO:

“The connection between the jester and the poet worked both ways, and THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A GOOD JESTER INCLUDED THE ABILITY TO EXTEMPORIZE VERSE AND TROT OUT RHYMING RETORTS OR CRINGE-INSPIRING DOGGEREL. POETIC SKILL WAS A VITAL PART OF THE JESTER’S RAGBAG OF TRICKS AT ALL TIMES and in all places. The Elizabethan comic actor and jester Richard Tarlton was so renowned for his ability to extemporize witty verse that he gave his name to a verb, “to tarltonize,” and William Kemp, another Shakespearian clown, actor, was also known for this ability. Actors such as Kemp, needing the actual skills of the jester rather than the ability simply to play the part from a script, came very close to being jesters in their own right.”

The defined words: OAFISH (A. Crude and not very clever); TATTLED (B. Made like a blabbermouth);
TAROT (C. Reading material for a cartomancer); OPERETTA (D. Lyrical form of amusement); FORECASTING (E. Weatherman’s job); OSTRACIZED (F. Banished by votes, cast on potsherds, once); OVERACT (G. Indulge in caricature); LITTLEJOHN (H. One of the Merry Men [2 wds.]); SIGHTGAG (I. Clown shoes or a fake arrow through the head, e.g. [2 wds.]); AMPLIFIED (J. Plugged in for playing; explained further); REJOINDER (K. Comeback from a wag); ESTRAGON (L. “Waiting for Godot” role for Robin Williams); EPIGRAM (M. Pearl of wisdom from Oscar Wilde or Dorothy Parker); VESTS (N. Garb often worn by magicians and jugglers); EXCALIBUR (O. Weapon thrown into a lake by Sir. Bedivere); RISIBILITY (P. Laughter, or an inclination to laugh); YORICK (Q. Fellow “of most excellent fancy,” to Hamlet); WOLFGANG (R. Puck seen on the Food Network); HUMORIST (S. Will Rogers or Ogden Nash, e.g.); ESPRIT (T. Jeu’___ [witticism]); REDSKELTON (U. Member of the first class of International Clown Hall of Fame inductees, 1989 [2 wds.]); ELOQUENT (V. Silver-tongued; expressively stated).

I wish I were a clever-enough ass to express what a wonderfully cheerful and brilliant acrostic that Emily Cox, Henry Rathvon & Will Shortz have given us -- but then how could I be taken seriously? Suffice to say that this acrostic is enormously entertaining -- and one up on the April Fool!

03.30.08

Mixed Feelings



Department of Psychology, HELP University
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Sunday, March 30, 2008
MIXED FEELINGS
Puzzle by Paula Gamache, edited by Will Shortz
Anagrams of the circled letters in the entries of TOENAILCLIPPERS (23A); CASEYSTENGEL (30A); TELEPHONE (52A); SLUTSKAYA (68A); THIRDGEAR (88A); POTATOMASHER (109A); SPORTSEQUIPMENT (118A); BEDROOMEYES (14D); PADDEDENVELOPE (16D); PINSTRIPEDSUIT (50D); and EMPTYHANDED (67D) provide ELATION, ECSTASY, HOPE, LUST, RAGE, SHAME, PIQUE, BOREDOM, LOVE, PRIDE, and EMPATHY.
Other mixed feelings-related entries in the puzzle include INSULTS, ATPLAY, PITY, ENRAPT, SADCASES, ILIED, FRIENDS, NODAT, GOTEM, ATHEIST, GAMUT, GUISE, EASE, SOPUP, EATOUT, ELOCUTES, and somehow SHLEPP.

Interesting configurations of the crossword include EDEN crossing ADAM linked to EVE; ARIA linked to SOLO; YESNO crossing ISEE above SEA; AKEEM and KHAYYAM sharing a K; “YEE-haw!” alongside HIE; the crossing of ART and ARM; and the confusion of the circled T in THIRDGEAR, is it really RAGE or am I missing something?
Nonsense in the puzzle includes DOO and DAT, LAALAA, YEE, GOTEM, AAA, AABA and OGPU. The clue for EPEE, (125A. Blade of Grasse) was interesting enough. Stuff that gave me trouble was PHENOL, PURIM, AVIONIC, NITTI, and STRETTO -- all in the same area.
People in the puzzle for these mixed feelings include Casey Stengel, Toni Morrison, Fred, Little Nemo, Nia Vardalos, Irina Slutskaya, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Nitti and Capone, Omar Khayyam, Erik Satie, et al.
I don’t particularly care for having to work anagrams separately from a puzzle after the solution -- none of the anagrams in the circled letters could possibly be of any help during the solve. So, when the puzzle is completed, unless one is obsessed or finds it necessary for some reason or other to perform such a function (say for amusement or writing a blog) it’s really a big afterthought. That aside, this is an orderly Sunday puzzle, but one of which I do have mixed feelings!

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For today's cartoons, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.29.08

Earth Hour, et cetera



Ortelius's map of the world, from 1601
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Saturday, March 29, 2008
Puzzle by Mike Nothnagel, edited by Will Shortz
An angry world is reflected in this crossword puzzle with scorn, disease, teargas, steroids, fear, rot, hate mail, hard time, woe and war cry, denial, intimidation, blindness, impairment, worry, rain, fighting words, et cetera, a fitting theme for today's Earth Hour!
SWEATINGBULLETS (34A. Very worried) and BUZZLIGHTYEAR (15D. Cinematic captain of Star Command) cross in the center of this otherwise friendly Saturday puzzle, sharing their G. The four corners of the puzzle are fairly tight, with plenty of staggered spaces between for easy access from one side to another.
Upper left, down: PACECARS (1. Indy sights since 1911); STATELAW (2. Governor’s guide); HARDTIME (3. It’s done in the slammer); AXES (4. Lines on planes); WIE (5. Youngest golfer ever to win a U.S.G.A. adult event [age 13]); SARAH (6. Grandmother of Jacob). Across: PSHAWS (1. Scornful dismissals); ATAXIA (14. Symptom of nervous system impairment); CAREER (16. Sports stats specification); ETDS (18. They’re often moved back in airports: Abbr.); ALITO (26. Associate of Thomas); RAMSESII (30. Son and successor of Seti I).
Upper right, down: TOPEKA (7. Seat of Shawnee County); EST (8. Record finish?); In AWORD (briefly) (9.); RODE (10. Hounded); GRANDE (11. It’s big in Rio); ATTEST (12. Swear); SHEETS (13. It may rain in these). Across: TEARGAS (7. Cause of temporary blindness); BOSWORTH (15. Linebacker Brian banned from the 1987 Orange Bowl for steroid use); UPTODATE (17. Current); RENEE (21. Ally’s roommate on “Ally McBeal”); DST (25. It begins near the end of winter: Abbr.); SETS (29. Mounts in a frame).
Lower left, down: CAVETT (41. Gov. Lester Maddox walked off his show in 1970); ARETOO (42. Reply to someone in denial); WARCRY (43. Fighting words?); BEES (52. Producers of some storage cells); BSTAR (48. Rigel or Spica); EDU (56. Part of many schools’ addresses); REPROS (45. Dupes). Across: CAWS (41. Calls in the field); ARA (47. Neighbor of Telescopium); VERBS (51. Point and click, e.g.); ETCETERA (55. Series finale?); TOREADOR (59. Caped combatant); TOYSRUS (61. Children’s Bargain Town, today).
Lower right, down: RIGGS (49. 1939 Wimbledon winner); LOT (58. Auction offering); LUKE (54. The prodigal son is found in it); EARTOEAR (36. Very wide, in a way); TIESCORE (37. Result of getting even with someone?); SLIPINTO (38. Enter on the sly). Across: HATEMAIL (40. Form of intimidation);DAREI ask …” (46.); TSP (50. 1/192 qt.); LOCI (54. Places); GLUEON (57. Affix, in a way); GOKART (60. Amusement park vehicle); STEREO (62. Tuner’s place).
Rounding out the center of the crossword -- Across: ADZE (19. It might help you dress in a shop); WHIZKID (23. Small wonder?); GLAM (28. Kind of rock); ROT (39. Claptrap); ARTY (44. Warholian); BREYERS (48. Brand in the freezer section); PEDI (53. Cab opener?). Down: DIGIN (20. Start putting stuff away?); “WOETO him who believes in nothing”: Victor Hugo (23.); IMOUT (24. Words said when one’s hand is shaky?); TSARS (27. Old dynasty members); SELMA (29. 1965 march setting); SITAR (31. It’s heard on the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul”); SLEDS (33. Runners’ locations); BAYED (35. Howled).
A cross crossword for a cross world, across and down, et cetera... Lights out!


Google users in the United States will notice today that Google has "turned the lights out" on the Google.com homepage as a gesture to raise awareness of a worldwide energy conservation effort called Earth Hour.
On Saturday, March 29, 2008, Earth Hour invites people around the world to turn off their lights for one hour – from 8:00pm to 9:00pm in their local time zone. On this day, cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Chicago, Melbourne, Dubai, and Tel Aviv, will hold events to acknowledge their commitment to energy conservation.

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For today's cartoons, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.28.08

Website



Elevator shaft of the Cooper Union Foundation Building, NYC, designed by Frederick A. Peterson, construction began in 1853 and was completed six years later.
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Friday, March 28, 2008

Puzzle by Barry C. Silk, edited by Will Shortz

When commenting on the
February 23rd puzzle, which was also authored by Barry C. Silk, I noted that depending upon one’s familiarity with selective areas of interest and experience, a crossword puzzle in which no word relates to another in any way, shape or fashion can be a tiresome and thankless chore. I then mentioned one entry that was of interest to me -- today, I find none.

However, the mantra at this WEBSITE (16A. A mouse may help you get there) is "the blog shall be posted." -- much like the old post office slogan "Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

You’ve got mail! Word has it that SOUTHPHILLY is also known for the SOFTPRETZEL. ATHESCENE is where it’s happening, but what is “it“? It’s COMESLATER, not COME SAFTER. QUONSETHUT, only WWII, really? ONEPERCENT of genius is inspiration, 99% is perspiration, leading to WATER BORNE and SPORTSWEAR, not SPORTSGEAR. EYEFUL could be EYECUP.

ETTE (13D. Major conclusion); URSA (53D. Major start?), not DRUM. SANO, not SANE. ADHERE rather than ATTACH. NEUROSIS is not an apartment complex, THREEPM, not SEVENPM; a flea market is called a SWAPMEET if you have fleas; it’s SNERT, not SANDY. SALSAS today, and SALSA yesterday. REAL, RIAL, RIEL, RYAL RYEL, it’s so unreal!

Suddenly, I’m reminded of the WHELP (47D. Whippersnapper) of an office boy who quit his job and threw the mail cart down the open elevator shaft -- I’m sure this would include anything containing NEEDANAP, ACQUIRE, SMALLER, TMOBILE, TOURNEY, ATLANTA, THERETO, ANTENNA, SHARPEN, ROSALIA, SNIFTER, SIXTHMAN, MARINO, METRE, ABLER, GLENN, EPPIE, LSAT, LINZ, URB XES, HEF or COW.

The mail cart’s in the shaft -- call maintenance!

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For today’s cartoons, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.


03.27.08

Crane


Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Puzzle by Joe Krozel, edited by Will Shortz

CRANE (49D. Word defined by 20-, 36- and 51-Across);
STRETCHONESNECK (20A. See 49-Down);
NOVELISTSTEPHEN (36A. See 49-Down);
LARGEWADINGBIRD (51A. See 49-Down) are this Thursday puzzle’s inter-related entries.

Strangely, first to come to mind was the construction crane that fell here in New York City; and, of course, Janet Leigh’s role in Psycho as the doomed Marion Crane. Or the inimitable Ichabod!

CAMERASHY (11D. Hard to take?) sat looking at me without registering, but the electronic puzzle thing said it was correct -- Oh! Camera shy! GINNIEMAE (18A. Federally guaranteed security) is spelled out differently than I had thought. PARABOLA (38D. Graph of the equation y = ax2 + bx + c) just sort of filled itself in from the acrosses. EVERGREEN (32D. Oscar-winning song from “A Star Is Born”) is from a version of that tale I’ve never seen, I’ve only seen Judy Garland and Janet Gaynor play the role in which Barbra Streisand flopped, but won her second Oscar for authorship of the aforementioned song. ONEONONES (56A. Private chats) wanted to be tête-à-tête!

DATELINE (4D. Start of many a story), read as "news"; BALLPARK (25A. Diamond setting) which I wished to be something more solid, like a rock on a finger; WARBRIDE (42A. Cary Grant played a male one in 1949), AZALEAS (22A. Showy shrubs); FINANCE (47A. Back); CASSINI (21D. Designer for Jackie Kennedy); and LETMEIN (27D. What “knock knock” may mean) are the remaining longer entries.

Of the shorter entries, those of six-letters include ANGLED, ANTHEM, BUGOUT, ISOLDE, LARSEN, PRENUP, SEEPED, STATEN. Five-letter, ALLAT, BETHE, DEARES, EDNAS, ELENA, FISTS, HIGHS, LOGAN, LOTTA, NIGER, PLOTZ, SALSA, SPUDS, ULTRA. Four-letter, ADEN, ANEW, ANIS, ANOX, APSE, AYES, BRAC, DELE, DIEU, DORA, ERNE, EXES, HOPE, ILER, ISNT, KENS, LODI, OLIO, PCBS, PENN, RARE, RHEE, SEEK, VOLT, WOVE. Three-letter, EAR, ERE, GUS, INS, OUR, and SHE.

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For today's cartoons, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.



03.26.08

Menu

Nighthawks -- Edward Hopper, 1942
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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Puzzle by Michael Langwald, edited by Will Shortz

What’s on the menu? Well, TBONES (4D. Butchers’ offerings); FIGS (12D. Big Turkish export); KIWI (59D. Fuzzy fruit); SPUD (33D. Tater); ...EGGS (20A. Break- fast specialty of a rock singer?); ...STEW (39A. Lunch specialty of an Emmy-winning actor?); and ...STEAK (57A. Dinner specialty of an R&B singer?). This
short-order crossword puzzle dresses up the last three items on the menu with grill men -- GLENNFREYSEGGS, PETERBOYLES STEW, and SAMCOOKESSTEAK, a/k/a fry, boil, cook, yet no SAUTE (55D. Brown, perhaps). You can order a CAB (62D. Certain red wine, informally), however, no soup, salad, or Joe!

Sorry to eat and run, but I’m out of here!

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For today’s cartoons, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.25.08

Voice v.v. Voice, II


His Master’s Voice by Francis Barraud, circ. 1899
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Puzzle by Steve Salmon, edited by Will Shortz

"(In linguistics), a homophone is a type of homonym, although sometimes homonym is used to refer only to homophones that have the same spelling but different meanings.. -- Homophones, Wikipedia.

Well, whatever -- today’s are both amusing and helpful -- getting one of the following group of this crossword’s reveals the remaining, making for an amusing and enjoyable solve; and even though one has probably heard these particular entries time and again, the clues are playful, pleasing, and to the point.
BOREDBOARD (18A. Blasé group of directors?);
SWEETSUITE (62A. Lovely hotel accommodations?);
MAIZEMAZE (3D. Farm-grown labyrinth?);
MOURNINGMORNING (7D. Wake at dawn?);
WHOLEHOLE (10D. Pit in its entirety?);
HEARDHERD (33A. Mooing group of cattle);
ISLEAISLE (37D. Key passage).
The last time around for this ilk of entries (albeit, with a different twist), the November 27th crossword offered: LEADPENCIL (Number one #2?); MINUTEMAID (Little woman?); POLISHJOKE (What a comedian might do before going onstage?); and BASSGUITAR (Fish-shaped musical instrument?). Perhaps JimH can provide a few more for our amusement.
Meanwhile, there are two 9-letter entries, LASERBEAM (38D. Light in a light show) and SEMIMETAL (21D. Arsenic or antimony); two 8-letter entries, HEADGEAR (51A. Helmets and such) and INCREASE (26A. Double or triple, say); two 7-letter entries, ACETATE (25D. Film material) and CAROTID (27D. Kind of artery); with no 6-letter entries.
Five-letter entries are: HASTE, SPEED, TEMPO, TEMPE, and ABNER, ACORN, AFOOT, ALTER, ARUBA, ALTHO, ATEAT, AYRES, BRIBE, BRUSH, DEBAR, ELGAR, ELWES, MEDIA, PADRE, PAGER, PREEN, RIATA, and SIZES.
Four-letter: ALEF, AMIE, ATEA, BARS, ECON, ELSA, ESTD, FLEA, GULF, HEMS, HIYA, IGOT, ISMS, IRAS, LAZE, LSAT, OILS, REAP, SCAN, SLAG and STAG, TEAR, UPIN, USER, UTAH, WRAP…with a handful of three-letter: ASH, ERR, NEB, NNE, RIT, RNA, SAP, SIS, TAB, and appropriately, END.
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For today’s cartoon, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.24.08

39-Across



Monday, March 24, 2008

Puzzle by David J. Kah, edited by Will Shortz

Think of how many untapped opportunities are out there for crossword puzzles starring The King -- 50th anniversaries of every conceivable twitch a body can make, down to the last flatulent gasp for a breath of fresh air! Ha!, no equinox or Easter to brighten our dark little world of crosswords this year, instead (pardon my onomatopoetically intended alliteration) pow!, a pitiful pittance passing for topicality in puzzledom in the person of a perfectly pompadoured Presley!

ELVIS (39A. Notable Army Inductee of 3/24/58),
RCA (54D. Record label of 39-Across),
KING CREOLE (56A. Last movie 39-Across made before his Army stint),
HAIRCUT (23A. Much photographed event after 39-Across’s induction),
ALLSHOOKUP (17A. Like 39-Across’s fans on his induction day?),
PRIVATE (26D. First Army rank of 39-Across),
WESTGERMANY (25D. Where 39-Across was stationed overseas),
COLINPOWELL (11D. Army officer who met 39-Across in 25-Down),
SGT (13D. Last Army rank of 39-Across: Abbr.),
GIBLUES (30D. First movie 39-Across made after his Army stint).

Further, add EGO (12D. Self-esteem), PEER (4D. Word before group or pressure), HAWKS (23A. Warmongers), and the visage of AWOL (40A. Military no-show), and it becomes APPARENT (40D. Clear to all) he was in PERIL (15A. Jeopardy) of being SHELLACKED (32A. Defeated soundly) by conservatives ready and willing to TAR and feather (47A.) his wiggling REAR (54A. Derriere) -- but at EASE (48A. Simplicity), a LIE (60D. Made-up story) from AFAR (10D. Light years away) -- he was a PLIANT (42A. Flexible) and an obedient COG (41A. Part of a gearwheel), spawning many an APER (52A. One who makes a good first impression?), instead of the easy road of 56D. “IVE had it!”

Oh, we’ll hear it from everyone on this crossword! “That was before my time! I was not born yet! I was one year old! Who cares? Where did the time go?!" One thing that we’ll not hear is “I’ve never heard of him.” We get dozens of crossword puzzles with dozens of personalities featured from eras when not a single being living on this planet was alive! Do we complain?! No. Why is that? Well, maybe it’s because ELVIS is still very much alive!

Other people in the puzzle -- DEGAS (66A. Artist who liked to paint dancers), along with 50A. Singer MARC Anthony, ANYA (65A. Novelist Seton), EVERT (63A. 1975-78 U.S. Open champ Chris), 16A. Phileas FOGG, who went around the world in 80 days, CEOS (6D. Corporate V.I.P.’s), 7A. Noah’s ARK, LIU (8D. “Ally McBeal” actress Lucy), TALIAS (33D. Actresses Shire and Balsalm), HALAS (49A. Legendary Chicago Bears coach George) and 21A. Spy Mata HARI.

Plenty of couples today: EEL & ELL (or ELK), LIE & LIU, ALOT & ATAD, NAG & NEG, PLEA & PLIE, SPA & SPOT, ALTOONA & ASTORIA; and a nice couple in the Shortzesque clue department -- 18. What the “H” of H.M.S. may be; and 49. What the “H” of H.M.S. may be -- HIS & HER.

Life can be a TREK (67A. Hard journey).

Elvis and me? Wouldn’t you like to know!

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For today's cartoons, go to
The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.23.08

Convergence



Sunday, March 23, 2008

Puzzle by Robert W. Harris, edited by Will Shortz

Common Interests is the given title of this Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, a definition for the following across entries and their clues:
CURRENTEVENTS (24. Electrical engineers and news anchors?); EXOTICPORTS (26. World travelers and wine connoisseurs?); ROCKBANDS (44. Geologists and music video producers); SPRINGBREAKS (52. College students and mattress testers?); STAGECOACHES (82. Old West outlaws and aspiring thespians?); HIPJOINTS (89. Beat-era musicians and orthopedists?);
GOLDRECORDS (110. Fort Knox officials and pop singers?); and STRAIGHTLINES (113. Comedians and parade directors?).

Common Interests is a timely title, for there is currently a rare convergence of Holy Days of more than one tradition in observance. The calendars of a variety of religious traditions mark special days on this weekend under no less than a full moon.

In the Christian tradition, it is Easter, with Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. In the Jewish tradition, this is the time of Purim. In the Hindu tradition it is Holi, a joyous and raucous celebration. In Buddhist tradition, Magha Puja Day commemorating Buddha’s teaching of the 'Ovadapatimokkha'. In Muslim tradition Mawlid al-Nabi, the birthday of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is celebrated. And, finally, the festival of Noruz among Kurdish people, to a commemoration of the equinox among some other national groups. It is a rich convergence of events to be sure. An equinox to remember!

For this weekend, at least -- love and peace!



In memory of Arthur C. Clarke, 90, Science Fiction Writer, who died this week on the eve of the Equinox, “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 2 minutes and 1 second.

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For today's cartoon, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.22.08

Honorificabilitudinitatibus!


Hop Frog -- Greg Hildebrandt
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Puzzle by Byron Walden, edited by Will Shortz

HAPAX legomenon (word or phrase used only once in a document or corpus) (27A) is the modus operandi for this crucible -- I don’t recall seeing most of these entries, let alone clues, in any crossword of recent memory. NODUH (25A. “Obviously, Einstein!”), NODAT (46D. Tacitly acknowledge) and NOMESS (61A. Claim of convenience, in ads or otherwise) emphasize the negativity of a majority of entries and clues -- OPTSOUTOF (21A. Steps away from); MISPRINT (20A. Big numismatic news); EXMATE (57A. Split personality?); RATTY (14D. Run-down) and others, render this collage of incompatibles STAGY (23A. Forced, in a way) and INANIMATE (32D. Lifeless), fodder for the COMMODE (7D. Where to go)!

Oh, but let me be fair! What’s the limit for a clue? How far out should one be expected to reach for a life-line? How much can one’s life experience of gathered trivial knowledge contribute to the solution of a crossword puzzle? When do the mavens admit to murder?

I’ve never heard of DATEMYMOM (31D. MTV reality show) because I’ve never watched MTV or read a TV Guide. PERIODIDE (29A. Salt with the maximum proportion of element #53) deserves the extended definition given by its clue, simply because there’s no other way to be fair about it. MTARARAT has appeared over and over in crosswords, but to be Saturd'yesque, the clue is (18A. Geographic feature depicted in the Armenian coat of arms). LURKED gets the ornate definition of (17A. Kept one’s own counsel, online).

More? EARPS is clued as (10D. Legendary brothers in law), not to be confused with brothers-in-law. ONCAMERA (16A. Like anchors), RIOTER (59A. Street lighting specialist?), what?, JELLOSHOT (1D. Jigger that jiggles?), BIKESTAND (4D. Lance Armstrong foundation?), even little entries of happenstance fill, e.g., XIA, REP, LYS get TOP treatment with 18D. Earliest recorded Chinese dynasty, 41D. One who stands for something, 36D. Flower of Pâques, and 22D. With 24-Across, number one position -- that’s right, SLOT (24A. See 22-Down).

Had enough? JABBER (1A. Yak) is not YAMMER nor an Asian beast; but for hawking products the likes of SUPERMINI (51A. Volkswagen Polo, for one), HIC (25D. Minute Maid drink brand), OHS (30D. Quaker cereal), RCAS (9D. Some DVRs), and ROXIO (52D. CD-burning software company that bought Napster). How many have that on the tip of their tongues?

DETONATES (33D. Sets off) and BURSTOPEN (3D. Begin to blossom) are the liveliest entries in the puzzle, doh! -- the remains in the long entry category are AQUAPLANE (2D. Alternative to a water ski); EYELINERS (34D. Parts of makeup kits), CARESFOR (7A. Nurses, say), OLEASTER (53A. Shrub also known as Russian olive), DIETSODA (56A. Light mixer), ATTHEGUN (58A. As time expires, in a football game), TOESTOPS (60A. Roller skate features), and TENDAYWAR (38A. 1991 conflict between Slovenia and Yugoslavia), oh sure, we all know that!

Ourang-Outang, or Orangutan, is ORANG (13D. Animal in Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”), a beastly murdering ape not to be confused with Poe’s "Hop-Frog; Or, the Eight Chained Ourangoutangs" or for that matter, ANURANS (40D. Frogs and toads). ENERO (5D. Hot month in Chile) and FERIA (12D. Spanish festival) could likely co-exist. SMART (11D. Sting) and WISEDUP (39D. Saw the light) don’t. STATE gets gussied up with (42A. Western Australia, for example), while BOYMAN (55A. One suspended in adolescence) seems to supplant MANCHILD, albeit either minus SINEW (43A. Brawn).

CHANEY (37D. Star of “London After Midnight,” 1927) receives a lost film reference, TOGO (54D. Neighbor of Ghana) supplants food’s “to go” -- it’s Saturday, you see. Other names from the Attic of Uselessness are WEBERN (44D. Composer of “Das Augenlicht,” 1935), ALITO (47D. First justice alphabetically in the history of the Supreme Court), and PEETE (48D. First African-American golfer with 12 P.G.A. Tour wins) -- no, not WOODS.

Rounding up or rounding out the remaining entries and clues, EQUINE (15A. Zebralike), LASERS (19A. Some pointers), ONENIL (35A. Common soccer score); ENOL (45A. Compound with a double bond); NAPPA (46A. Soft leather used in wallets, whose name derives from a place in California), long way to go for Nappa Valley; ANTIFUR (8D. Like some animal rights campaigns); PATHS (49D. They go places); ASSET (50D. Plus); and REDSUN (6D. Notable distinction for the planet Krypton). Ka-boom!

In closing, I bequeath this stumper Shakespeare’s hapax legomenon -- Honorificabilitudinitatibus!

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For today’s cartoon, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.21.08

Thorns



Friday, March 21, 2008

Puzzle by Peter A. Collins, edited by Will Shortz

T.G.I.F. is not always de rigueur, but here we are on Good Friday at least thinking so, for oddly, it is a holiday for the stock market!

Thorns in the form of
ROSEBUSHES (1A. They have many sticking points) leads off four groups of three ten-letter entries, accompanied by ERASERHEAD (15A. 1978 cult film with a mutant child) and POLARBEARS (17A. Sealing fans) -- ha-ha-get-it “ceiling fans“…

The second set of three ten-letter entries are comprised of OCEANLINER (54A. Choice for intercontinental travel); TESTTAKING (57A. Student activity); and BETSYWETSY (59A. Doll that was once a going thing) -- ha-ha-get-it “going thing“… For a third set, upper right are FIRSTORDER (14D. Simplest, in math and logic); AMELIORATE (13D. Ease); and SQUEEZEBOX (12D. Zydeco instrument) -- ha-ha-get-it “accordian“… Finally, down left are and ORANGEZEST (26D. Marmalade ingredient); RAKELEAVES (25D. Tidy up the lawn, in a way); and finally, ADAMANDEVE (24D. Opening pair?).

OSMOSIS (35A. One way to get through a wall) appears to be the other lone deliberate entry, being placed in the center of the puzzle. All of the remaining entries are, of course, happenstance. By that, I mean to say, secondary to the choice of long entries. One might add URBANDESIGN (6D Architectural sub discipline) and MARINCOUNTY (23D. Home to San Quentin State Prison) due to their length, even though they are partially controlled by the groupings of long entries above and below.

The remaining entries are somewhat shorter -- six-letter entries are AROUND, BERLIN, COAXER, EEYORE, LIESON, NEESON, MADEIT, OUTLAW; five-letter, ABOUT, ANEST, BOATS, DAZES, HEATS, INOUT, LASTS, NAMES, NAMES, NIELS, OLMOS, SERTA, SHESA, TINAS, USAID; four-letter, AUER, DART, EARS, EMER, ESTA, EVER, ICEE, JENS, ONIT, ORGY, OROS, REPO, SALT, SOSA, SQMI, USAF, VEST, VOTE; and three-letter, AKA, ALG, BAD, ERR, ESA, IKE, MEN, MGR, OJO, OST, OTB, SAM, SDS, TUT, TUT, VAT, YOS, and ZOO.

The main chore for the authors of a puzzle of this nature is to write clues for the leftovers that will render those unmalleable entries seem intended.

Yesterday I was struck by the number of times that the word “hate” was used in seeming dead earnest in another crossword blog . One can only hope that beyond the thorns, those who hate may find love.


White Rose, photo by Harold Davis.
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For today’s cartoon, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.

03.20.08

Portmanteaux

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

Humpty Dumpty, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

To go to the original post with illustrations, additional commentary, and the completed puzzle, or to leave a Comment, click on the TITLE at the beginning of today's or any day's commentary.

Puzzle by Stephen Edward Anderson, edited by Will Shortz

Folk tales from various European countries claim that only on the March equinox day, can one balance an egg on its point. However a soul can balance an egg on its point any day of the year if one has the patience -- and, further, on this first day of Spring, we have a perfectly balanced crossword puzzle!

Four place-name portmanteaux are the main entries in today’s crossword -- MEXICALIMEXICO (20A. South-of-the-border border town portmanteau); KANORADOKANSAS (25A. Plains border town portmanteau); DELMARDELAWARE (42A. Mid-Atlantic border town portmanteau); and TEXARKANATEXAS (47A. South-central border town portmanteau).

A portmanteau is actually a large suitcase with two compartments, albeit archaic and rare. The definition with which we are now familiar is the combination of parts of two or more words into one, which yields a new meaning. e.g. lunch and breakfast into brunch, or smoke and fog into smog.

In Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, Humpty Dumpty and Alice discuss the poem, ‘Jabberwocky’. The egg explains the word "slithy”: “Well, ‘slithy‘ means ‘lithe and slimy.’ ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active.’You see it’s like a portmanteau - there are two meanings packed up into one word.” Both before and after Lewis Carroll, what is now called the portmanteau was a common way of coining new words.

For everyday portmanteaux, go HERE.Best entry today is XORO (52D. Tic-tac-toe choice). The entry XMAS is out of season on this, the first day of Spring! Tied together throughout the puzzle are pairings of NOVA & AVON, GOAT & GUAM, OAHU & OHNO, ORZO & EZRA. EATEN and TVDINNER share E's. Best short entry of the day -- always like seeing LEO, even when Roman numerals are included!

Longer entries also include DORMROOM, STREAKED, PEACENIK, POTION, and MAXOUT (all quite compatible, if you’ve been there). Sounds in the crossword include PLOP, TING, DRUM, DIRGE, SANG, and ALARMS.

However, the entries of Mexicali, Mexico; Kanorado, Kansas; Delmar, Delaware, and Texarkana, Texas are just out of this world!

Hey, if you’re traveling to any of those places, be sure to take your portmanteau!

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For today’s cartoons, go to The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.