1908 Cubs player and position - TUESDAY, Apr. 21, 2009 — RJ & NJ Byron (1946 high-tech wonder / Black-clad white-clad Mad adversaries)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy (or Challenging?)

THEME: TINKER to EVERS to CHANCE — Three theme answers, each clued [1908 Cubs player and position], end up describing perhaps the most famous DOUBLE PLAY COMBO in baseball history.

Word of the Day: VETCH - n.

Any of various herbs of the genus Vicia, having pinnately compound leaves that terminate in tendrils and small, variously colored flowers.

Hard to rate the difficulty level on this one. For me, this was one of the easiest Tuesdays I've ever done. Even with a few rewrites and rough patches, I still came in at 3:24 — fast for me for a Tuesday. I merely glimpsed at the first clue and immediately filled in the beginnings of the first three theme answers and the entirety of the fourth. I can see non-baseball fans, however, being absolutely stumped by this puzzle. You know 'em or you don't, and if you don't, it's going to be something of a slog (though non-theme clues are mostly remarkably easy, perhaps for just this reason). Cubs fans in particular know the phrase "Tinker to Evers to Chance" because those guys were part of the last Cubs team to win a World Series, six thousand years ago. The names of the men in that COMBO were immortalized in a 1910 poem by Franklin Pierce Adams:

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

By Franklin Pierce Adams
New York Evening Mail July 10, 1910

For folks who don't know what a DOUBLE PLAY COMBO is — they're the guys who touch the ball in a routine double-play, i.e. a ground ball to the shortstop with a man on first, shortstop throws to second-baseman who tags second and throws to first to complete the double play. Two outs on one ground ball. 1908 is also the year that the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" debuted.

My only trouble in solving this one involved my confusing "TINKER to EVERS to CHANCE" with John Le Carré's "TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY," which resulted in my writing the names of the COMBO at first as TINKER, TAYLOR, CHANCE. "TINKER to TAYLOR to CHANCE" sounds right to my ear. Better, in fact. More alliterative, more mellifluous. EVERS barely sounds like a name. Do you mean EVANS? EVERT? Make up your mind. Anyway, I worked it out fairly quickly, even though that section of the puzzle involved VETCH, which I've never heard of (26D: Climbing plant with pealike flowers). KVETCH, yes. Alexander OVECHKIN, yes. VETCH, no. Oh, didn't know SPRITS either (5D: Mast extensions). Yuck.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: 1908 Cubs player and position (TINKER, SHORTSTOP)
  • 25A: 1908 Cubs player and position (EVERS, SECOND BASE)
  • 43A: 1908 Cubs player and position (CHANCE, FIRST BASE)
  • 57A: What 17-, 25- and 43-Across were, famously (DOUBLE PLAY COMBO)
This seemed an awfully straightforward puzzle for the NYT. Simply descriptive of a historical phenomenon. The main gimmick seems to be the amazing coincidence that the three man + position answers and DOUBLE PLAY COMBO all come out to 15 letters. That discovery must have prompted the puzzle, which is otherwise adequate but kind of unremarkable. Lots and lots of crosswordese, and then SPRITS and VETCH (?), which feel off and ugly to me. When most of your fill is short, you really want to maximize the punch of the 5+ stuff. Loved BRAINIAC, but wasn't that fond of the clue (52A: 2006 Ken Jennings book ... or the author himself). The book part is fine, but something about calling the author that feels off. The word, which I love, still has at least vaguely pejorative connotations to me. BRAINIAC is a DC supervillain, for one. And for two, I'm pretty sure "BRAINIAC!" was a playground taunt before it was ever a thing you might innocuously call a smart person.

  • 16A: When repeated, Road Runner's call (beep) — I believe there was some discussion on this blog a while back about whether the sound wasn't more appropriately represented "meep meep!" The "meep" spelling is preferred in a number of places, including the Wikipedia entry for Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. You be the judge.

  • 35A: Hydrotherapy locale (spa) — This puzzle has "locale" and "sloganeer" in its clues (49A: "Yes we can" sloganeer) — sadly, it lacks "denizen" and thus fails to pick up the coveted Clue Jargon Trifecta.
  • 39A: Polish's partner (spit) — Easy to get, though "Polish" is always a tricky one — nationality or verb?
  • 41A: Baseball analyst Hershiser (Orel) — Is the "analyst" clue new? He's been one for years, but usually he's clued as a pitching great. I like that he's in this baseball puzzle.
  • 60A: Virginia _____ (noted 1587 birth) (Dare) — Honestly, I've heard the name, but I don't know who this is. I see that she was the first child born in America to English parents.
  • 4D: Peeling potatoes, stereotypically (on KP) — I see what the clue is going for, but something about it feels off, grammatically. I can think of situations where I can switch the two phrases neatly if I try (Sarge yelling at Beetle that he'll be "peeling potatoes" (i.e. ON KP) if he doesn't, I don't know, clean the latrine or stop ogling girls or something), but the verb phrase-to-prepositional phrase shift here feels jarring.
  • 25D: 1946 high-tech wonder (Eniac) — It's always ENIAC. 1946? ENIAC. Pre-Gates computing? ENIAC. Maybe ADA Lovelace, if it's three letters. But otherwise, ENIAC. Learned it from crosswords.
  • 31D: Black-clad and white-clad Mad adversaries (spies) — Best clue in the grid. Loved these guys (and Mad generally) as a kid.
  • 32D: Wonderland cake phrase (eat me) — Also, like BRAINIAC, a playground taunt.
  • 52D: Nonkosher diner offerings (BLTs) — I've never liked this clue on BLT. Seems unfair to clue it so negatively. "Nonkosher" seems to be puzzle shorthand for "it has pork in it."
  • 53D: Iditarod terminus (Nome) — One of the many crosswordy terms given to us by Alaska. See also ALEUT and ATKA and many others.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PuzzleGirl's write-up of today's LAT puzzle is here.


joho 8:00 AM  

Over the years I've seen TINKER, EVERS and CHANCE as answers but I don't think I've ever seen them IN the puzzle. I really liked it for that reason, but it did make it really easy.

My word of the day would have RERATO ... until I changed OLSON to OLSEN and got the right answer, RERATE. Some dumb staring there for a moment.

@Rex ... that Road Runner clip is a classic ... I LOVED it. I vote for MEEP MEEP.

@ACME ... check out the clip because you're in it!

Easy, enjoyable Tuesday for me. Thanks Ronald and Nancy Byron!

Parshutr 8:01 AM  

Sheesh, Rex, you can be so judgmental, but that's the blogger in you. Tinker to TAYLOR? I don't think so.
OREL was a pitcher before he was an analyst. I would have preferred that clue.
And I agree...either EASY or CHALLENGING. Easy for me.
Go Sox!

dk 8:07 AM  

Random (as always) musings:

I am on the "meep meep" side of the raging Road Runner controversy but there is that pesky song that has the "road runner goes BEEP BEEP in it."

As I have droned in the past ENIVAC reminds me of Mugs the chimp on the Today with Dave Garroway (sp?) when they would "ask the computer" questions.

What little I know about baseball was in this puzzle, now if we have the late 50's early 60's Yankees as a theme I will walk in the sun again... puzzle completion time wise.

Wrong NUMBER is what Acme always claims when I call to ask her out for a MALT. I only hope she does not teach Rex's dog(s) to SICEM.

BRAINIAC is more familiar to me as a super villain, four eyes as the playground taunt.

The puzzle just cleared the Tuesday difficulty bar for me. I had the same experience as Rex, my pen seemed to float through the fill and at least this time did not misspell to many words.

Thank you Byrons.

retired_chemist 8:11 AM  

@ RP, JOHO, et al - same here. I knew both the combo and the FPA poem so for me, easy, but obviously much less so for those who didn't.

"Bitter vetch" (Ervum Ervilia) used to be the (perhaps unique) clue for ers, apparently the common name for the plant. Never heard ers OR vetch out of a crossword context. Havent seen ERS in years. Decades, actually.

Jen 8:13 AM  

Rex: "Polish" is always a tricky one - nationality or verb?

---or Sausage?

Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:14 AM  

Made the same theme for my Cubs crossword book. Only the theme answers were TINKER TOYS, EVER SO SORRY, CHANCES UPON and DOUBLE PLAY, with the appropriate parts of the entries circled. This Times puzzle seemed a bit bland. Maybe we should have swapped puzzles and put the bland in the book?

In an unrelated note, seeing Brainiac reminded me of a sadly-ignored mid-90s band by the same name. Great stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlynAfC39BM

chefbea 8:15 AM  

challenging for me. Never heard of those players. Had to look up vetch which I have never heard of either.

Has anyone noticed that there have been no food related clues or answers in a while??? Oh well, it's baseball season

mexgirl 8:17 AM  

"...I can see non-baseball fans, however, being absolutely stumped by this puzzle."
At some point I actually thought there might be some word switching, hence giving us SHORT TINKER, SECOND EVER and FIRST CHANCE, which to me makes as much sense as the original phrases... Thanks though for lighting up the path! (as usual)

retired_chemist 8:18 AM  

D'oh. ERS is now clued as "hospital areas" or something similar.

Crosscan 8:29 AM  

Here's what I wrote on December 8, 2008: [begin flashback]

Give me a puzzle with BEEP BEEP and KERPLUNK anyday over your fancy-shmancy operas and fine artists.

Now we can have a deep discussion over MEEP MEEP vs BEEP BEEP. I am in the MEEP crowd, although I correctly entered BEEP as, after all, this is the New York Times. There are standards to uphold.

Can we agree that Wile E Coyote went SPLAT frequently.

Great fun; likely the best Tuesday of the year. [end flashback]

That was the "sound of..." puzzle, which I did indeed pick as my favorite Tuesday of 2008. I know baseball so this was easy, if not an award-winner.

I'm sure somewhere there's a Jimmy OLSEN/BRAINIAC baseball story, with OBAMA as Superman.

VETCH/ACC was the scary finish. Got it right.

Do you think this puzzle was a 100th anniversary creation that sat around for a year and Will trotted it out for the Chicago tournament?

Shin Kokin Wakashu 8:33 AM  

Having never heard of any of these baseball players I was not particularly pleased with this puzzle -- particularly the VETCH crossing which prevented me from finishing the puzzle. Luckily this was a Tuesday so the crosses for the most part were easy, but it just feels demoralizing to start a puzzle and know that you're not going to ever be able to get the long theme answers no matter how many letters get filled in.

Shin Kokin Wakashu 8:43 AM  

And in my humble opinion, BEQ's treatment is how puzzles like this should be constructed; in BEQ's puzzle you don't actually have to know the Cubs players to solve the puzzle although knowing them would give you an edge. In today's puzzle if you don't know the players' names, it leaves you essentially totally dependent on the crosses, which should not happen with the theme sections of a puzzle.

Matty 8:48 AM  

Hard for me Rex. Didn't know these guys nor did I wish to know them, but unfortunately will now never forget them :).

Question: Can someone explain the ONKP answer to me. I can guess from the writeup that it's got something to do with military terminology, but I'm still confused. Thanks to whoever helps in advance!

Shin Kokin Wakashu 8:52 AM  

KP = Kitchen Patrol, I think.

retired_chemist 9:04 AM  

@ Matty and SKW - KP is either Kitchen Police or Kitchen Patrol, as discussed on this blog a month or two aqo. Which one is the correct elaboration of KP seemed to be almost a religious debate.

Doug 9:12 AM  

Yes, an easy puzzle if you're a baseball fan. I loved it and finished fast because I got the theme answers so quickly. VETCH only through crosses. SPRIT has such an arcane definition. I'm a sailor and I was stumped. It usually means the extension of a spar on the bow of a boat to extend the size of a jib. As in "bow sprit." Boats haven't been equipped with bow sprits in like forever. My old family boat, built in 1903, actually had one.

pednsg 9:17 AM  

This feat of construction, in my mind, is nothing short of awesome! Sure, a certain amount of coincidence (names and positions all being 15 letters) helps, but I don't think I've done a puzzle recently that had me smiling and shaking my head in amazement as much as I did last night! (Baseball) hats off!

Glitch 9:17 AM  

@Matty & @ Shin K W

A while back there was a discussion as to KP being Kitchen Patrol or Kitchen Police

Patrol --- "covering the area"
Police --- military for "clean up"

As to T to E to C, I first heard it as signifying "bouncing between" (as in going from piller to post), then learned it came from baseball, and only today, the team and positions involved!


PS: @Retired C,
You posted while I was composing, but at least you confirm my recollection.

treedweller 9:22 AM  

I am offended that you people are mocking the Roadrunner's speech impediment by claiming he's saying "Meep"! Clearly, the word is "Beep" and it just isn't possible to make that initial "B" sound without lips.

As someone who has a passing knowledge of baseball but absolutely no awareness of the Cubs (particularly the 1908 Cubs), I would put this one at Medium. I was winging it on the players' names, but the positions and DOUBLEPLAY fell into place pretty easily, and the crosses were easy enough for the rest.

I had a slow start, though, because I tried "ciao" for TATA, didn't want to jump down to the bottom of the puzzle to get the clue for SMART, never heard of SPRITS or ALAN, and always just wait for crosses when the answer is a Greek letter. Once I got into the middle and gained some traction, everything fell pretty quickly.

Dough 9:26 AM  

This puzzle reminded me of a brilliant theme and variations puzzle written by Stephen Sondheim (between "Do I Hear a Waltz" and "Company") for New York Magazine based on their names. I don't know if it's available online.

I googled the phrase "Tinker to Evers to Chance" and it came back with 24,800 exact matches.

Here are their Baseball cards

Jim in Chicago 9:31 AM  

I had a Natick moment on the crossing of Tinke?.... and Sp?its. Having not a clue for either I threw in the R, since the only other option that made any sense was L, and I didn't think TINKEL quite passed the breakfast table test.

Go Cubs!

Anne 9:37 AM  

Put me down for meep, meep (lips or no lips), kitchen police and both easy and challenging.

I have never heard of Tinker, Evers, Chance, or sprit. But since I garden, I have heard of vetch (which saved me) and Eniac looked familiar.

All in all, a good Tuesday.

@archaeoprof - I'm glad there's at least two of us.

@Xman - I agree that bluejays don't caw, but there are other jays around the world, maybe one of them does.

Orange 9:40 AM  

Ken Jennings took no umbrage at th BRAINIAC clue. Free PR!

PuzzleGirl 9:49 AM  

This puzzle pissed me off. Now that you've explained the historical significance, I can appreciate it but while solving it just really thought it was unfair. You said: "though non-theme clues are mostly remarkably easy, perhaps for just this reason." Remarkably easy except for the two answers you (and I and most everybody else) didn't know: VETCH and SPRITS, each of which crosses a theme entry at a square that could be any number of consonants if you don't know the baseball players' names. You ended up with those correct because you knew the names in the theme entries. I guessed on both and ended up batting .500. Meh.

Ulrich 9:50 AM  

The only thing that helped this baseball ignoramus was the inclusion of the positions in the theme answers, which were gettable from a few crosses--this made the Eastern half Tuesday-easy. Now, the name half (the West) was an altogether different story, and, like others, I met my Waterloo around the VETCH--had to guess both the V and C, which made it a personal DOUBLE NATICK--not what I expect on a Tuesday...

ArtLvr 10:03 AM  

Easy for me, though I'm not up on baseball lore. At some time I was able to ABSORB the historic trio in this puzzle; I knew SPRITS and VETCH too. Liked PUSHY crossing MUSCLE, plus GOTTI as more low-life down below...

@ chef Bea -- TACO, BLTS, ROAST, MALT, EAT ME! Lots of food, but no hot dogs... or red veggie.


Sandy 10:08 AM  

I think I must live in a bizaro universe. Vetch and Sprits were near gimmes. And I really needed them on the crosses because I had no idea what was going on with the theme. Otherwise I might have felt as annoyed as PuzzleGirl.

Roxie 10:09 AM  

Can we just agree that we've done enough with baseball now? I know this puzzle delighted diehard baseball fans, but c'mon. This is a team from 100 years ago I'm supposed to know on a Tuesday. Rex, can you use your powers to get constructors to do a football (soccer) puzzle? Then I'd be happy to write in about how fantastic it was to solve.

elitza 10:18 AM  

Cubs puzzle! I may have died and gone to heaven.

Not to say I like to be reminded of our drought, but it was a fun, easy puzzle today. Didn't even blink at SPRIT, VETCH came through crosses.

toothdoc 10:22 AM  

I am missing the historical significance that makes this puzzle relevant. On this date 101 years ago these 3 did what? It's not opening day. Otherwise, put this puzzle in a sports magazine. Ironically, I ended up getting it right (no doubt due to reading this blog for a year and getting good at guessing) but I don't like heading into a puzzle where you know you can't fill in an across b/c it is such random specialized knowledge.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

cheers to BEQ for the Brainiac (the band) plug...very cool and underrated!

Frieda 10:48 AM  

VETCH was fine by me. Meep meep.

Forgot what or where CANA was, so these masts were extended with SPLITS and someone named TIRKEL did ...something, sometime. Which means one might eat FAME atop rice. Does that count as a food answer?

Don't know the book BRANIAC but got it anyway which jarred ENIAC out in the open nicely ( I kept thinking "not HAL, not HAL....")

John 11:14 AM  

I agree with the non-sports people, Cant we have just one sport per puzzle? Vetch crossing ACC! They just had to drag Basket ball back in! (Just when you think bball season is over....)

Frieda, Wasnt that Studs Tirkel???

jeff in chicago 11:24 AM  

This was my slowest puzzle at the Chicago tourney. Baseball is not my thing, but it was easy to get the positions based on crosses, and eventually TINKER came into view. With that, the famous phrase appeared as a faint glimmer in the depths of my brain. CHANCE fell next. But, in the end, I messed it up because I though it was UNIAC. And "Tinker to Uvers to Chance" seemed reasonable. MEEP!

Nebraska Doug 11:36 AM  

I agree with BEQ, Brainiac was a great and sadly-ignored band. I think I have everything they released except for one ep. Highly recommended!

fikink 11:43 AM  

I'm with Anne on this one. Knew nothing of the baseball clues, but remember my parents covering a hillside with Crown Vetch.

Orange 11:47 AM  

Didn't notice the ENIAC/BRAINIAC combo 'til just now. Cute!

Ken Jennings explained how the book's title came about back in '06. He liked the Superman tie-in.

william e emba 11:57 AM  

I'm not a baseball fan, but I consider the phrase "TINKER to EVERS to CHANCE" to be extremely well-known, and that made the puzzle exceedingly easy.

Doug 11:58 AM  

There are more Doug's in here than Cubs antiquities. That's assuming Dough is Doug and not a baker. Having travelled a lot, I've had numerous Europeans transcribe that ugly little aspirated "guh" at the end of my name into Dough...

Didn't know these fellows, but can't complain though. Goodness knows we've all filled in our share of opera singers and Greek gods based on crosses. TYR? I used to think YMASUMAC was unfair and now it's just a gimmee.

Nice puzzle otherwise, and I really appreciated the fresh fill. Ronald and Nancy have found the perfect hobby for a couple I must say!

Doug 11:59 AM  

Ach, I hate when I mess up my possessives: DOUGS not DOUG'S

Clark 12:15 PM  

Vetch did me in -- crossed with baseball players names and athletic org initials. Yikes!

I listened hard to the road-runner clip. Sounds like 'meep' at 0:16, 'beep' at 0:36. From then on it's meeps and beeps and mbeeps. I say potato . . .

I am loyal to 'kitchen patrol' over 'kitchen police' because that's what my dad (a WWII navy vet) used to say.

Elaine 12:16 PM  

I'm a baseball fan, so this one was not only easy for me but made me smile as well. But I can certainly see how it could have annoyed those not deeply steeped in diamond lore....

On Friday when I probably won't get ANY of the long answers that the rest of you figure out, I'll think back fondly on this one!

jae 12:21 PM  

Liked the puzzle but knew the players so it was easy. Unknowns for me were VETCH, TYR, and DARE, and I was very iffy on CANA and SPRITS. So, if I hadn't known the theme answers I would have been screwed on this one. This is a round about way of saying I think PG is right.

Greene 12:30 PM  

I don't know squat about baseball, but was able to successfully complete the puzzle. As others have pointed out, the team positions were a big help and the rest came from crosses. My last entry was VETCH which was a total guess. Sometimes it can be fun to work around total ignorance of a subject.

PlantieBea 12:45 PM  

I wrote in MEEP right away. Didn't know the players, but knowing ENIAC, VETCH, ON KP, and SPRITS made solving possible. Bow sprits actually look like dangerous weapons--bayonets on boats? Sails are often stored around the sprits.

I originally wrote in PHI for the Greek letter. Got me until I figured out the second part of the baseball theme.

David 12:46 PM  

Like @william e emba, I am no sports fan at all. But the crosses quickly recalled the T to E to C song, and I finally changed STAID to STOIC so that it was no longer a DOUBLE PLAY DOMBO. I wondered if baseball might have some DOUBLE PLAY DUMBO, but got straightened out.

Karen 12:48 PM  

For me, Vetch is a character in Ursula LeGuin's young adult fantasy classic, A Wizard of Earthsea (he was the best friend of the main character, Sparrowhawk). I always thought that was just a made up name. I should know the author better than that.

I also really enjoyed the book Brainiac and gave copies to other trivia-minded friends. He describes his time on Jeopardy and investigates other trivia contests.

I'm with Roxie on the need for a soccer (football) puzzle. Let's see, for answers we can have Pele, and Beckham, and, um, Ronaldinho and Cuahtemoc. Hmm. Let me think on that a bit more.

HudsonHawk 12:49 PM  

Some days it helps to know more about sports than opera...or sci-fi writers. PuzzleGirl (and addie), I thought OLSEN was a shout out to you, but little Jimmy didn't spell it right.

@ArtLvr, there was a hot dog in the clues, and it was covered in CHILI.

@John, the ACC isn't just a basketball conference. There are some very good college baseball teams in the ACC, so you could argue it went with the theme.

TCBuell 1:02 PM  

This was probably one of my favorite NYT crosswords of all time - I smiled all the way through it, basking in the imagined smell of the bat and the crack of the grass.
I think Tinker-Evers-Chance should be part of a cultural awareness requirement for graduating students - teamwork and all that.
Lovely puzzle; lovely day.
- Tom in Pittsburgh

PS - New word of the day: gonfalon

obertb 1:18 PM  

@POLISH, nationality or verb?

Many years ago when I lived in Peoria, there was a furniture refinishing place called "Finish Removal Service." From time to time they'd get angry phone calls asking what they had against Finns and where they were removing them to. (Yes, I know it's Finnish if you're referring to Finns, but as you might imagine, these callers weren't exactly BRAINIACs.)

Puzzle: This was harder than a usual Tuesday for me because I don't know jack about baseball. The SPRITS/TINKER cross was last to fill. I thought SPLITS/TINKEL? Oh, surely not TINKEL, so I guessed TINKER (what else was there?). I can see how this would be very easy for a baseball BRAINIAC.

mac 1:26 PM  

Challenging, meep meep!

How frustrating to sail through the whole thing except for N. California. TWO unknown baseball players, U. of Miami's athletic org., and instead of nerve I had "verve" for 33A. I'm pretty sure I would have remembered Eniac if I had had a little more than the i.....
I lucked out with Tinker, the Dutch word for a mast extension is "spriet", close enough.

OK, back to the opera, please!

HudsonHawk 1:30 PM  

@obertb, around the corner on 1st Ave. is a nail salon called Polish. The full neon sign above the salon reads:


Unfortunately, the leading A runs right into the N and the I is occasionally burned out, so it looks like something completely different. They finally got wise and dropped the leading A.

George NYC 2:19 PM  

Loved OBAMA being clued as a Sloganeer.

As for KP, I remember the debate here a while back as being somewhat inconclusive. My father always said Kitchen Patrol; he was in the Navy during WWII, on a PT boat in the Pacific. PT stands for Patrol Torpedo which would make Kitchen Patrol more likely in context.

Maybe Kitchen Police was used more commonly in the Army?

Daniel Myers 2:24 PM  

@ Jeff in Chicago and Rex

I made the same one mistake w/ UNIAC vs. ENIAC. See, it's not "always" ENIAC, Rex. In fact, it seems to me that UNIAC ends up being the answer just as often. Perhaps someone out there is keeping count. Anyway, I learned of them both through NYT crosswordese.

edith b 2:25 PM  

On December2, 2008 I commented on Orange's blog the following:

I once read an interview with the two performers who voiced the Road Runner (Paul Julian and Nancy Wible) and they were asked what exactly they were saying: Beep-Beep or Meep-Meep?

Their answer? Sometimes Beep-Beep, sometimes Meep-Meep. It was not either/or but both/and.
This was an easy puzzle for me as I was familiar with the baseball players, which produced VETCH and I knew what a SPRIT was.

JannieB 2:28 PM  

Hi all - changed my avatar so you could meet my new fur child Dulcie! She (and a bridge tournament) have been keeping me more than a little busy.

Enjoyed this puzzle - easier for me than yesterday's. I think of vetch (actually the "crown" variety) as the kudzu of the north - it's all over the road sides, sprayed on by the hwy dept to prevent erosion on overpass hills and such.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

Just for the record, Johnny Evers name is pronounced E-vers (rhymes with beavers). He is from my home town (Troy NY) and everyone knew the Evers family. He opened Johnny Evers Sporting Goods store in downtown Albany, in the 1930's I think. It was still there when I was a kid in the 1970's, a total time capsule. However, I find no evidence of it in a google search, so I think it may have closed.

eliselzer 2:43 PM  

As a die hard Cubs fan, I flew through this puzzle. However, I distinctly remember knowing about Tinkers to Evers to Chance as a child long before I knew they had been Cubs players. Vetch may have given me trouble if I had had to look at it. I got through this one in under five minutes on the iPhone's less than ideal interface (at $10/year, it's the only way I can afford to get the puzzle right now) on a bumpy bus. Would love to know what I could have done by hand or on AcrossLite.

Noam D. Elkies 2:54 PM  

Re 52D: Various other reasons besides p*g products can make something nonkosher. Clam chowder or Reuben sandwich, for example (the latter because of the meat/dairy prohibition). Or even a Passover challah (hey, it's 15 letters long).

Or, as far as I'm concerned, this puzzle... It went beyond meh to feh. "Graduation requirement"?! Give me a break. The Maersk crew who foiled pirates last week, that's teamwork. All that Tinker et al. accomplished is a couple of good throws and catches in a b*seball game 100+ years ago -- whatever.

Enough kVETCHing; on to Wednesday.


archaeoprof 3:08 PM  

@Rex: thanks for the RoadRunner clip! Is it true that all the plot lines of great literature are in RoadRunner?

FWIW, in that Cubs infield, third base was played by Harry Steinfeldt.

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

I promised you more crazy crossword answers (courtesy of my coworkers), and today they delivered.

Put an edge on: NATE
"Pants on fire" person: THAR
Polish's partner: SUST
Rustic lodgings: HATS
Fountain order: CAMT
The "t" in NAFTA: TRAPE

And last but not least, SHIRT STOP (crossed with PSI instead of RHO).

SethG 3:20 PM  

ENIAC has been in the puzzle 22 times in the Shortz era. UNIAC? 0. Maybe you're thinking of UMIAK, the boat?

And then there's the EPICAC...

Bob Kerfuffle 3:23 PM  

@Daniel Myers - Yes, someone is keeping count, namely Jim Horne at his X Word Info website. By his count, going back to 1993, ENIAC has been in a Times puzzle 22 times, UNIAC, zero.

At Jim's site you could also find that yesterday's puzzle set the record for the most Js (11) in a daily puzzle, and a whole pile of other statistics. ((Some people like Jim are very big on statistics; others like our Rex are concerned with the overall artistry of the puzzle.)

Bob Kerfuffle 3:26 PM  

@SethG - Sorry, another example of two of us typing the same thing and posting at the same time! As the punch line of one of my favorite Hagar the Horrible cartoons says, "Great minds think alike - and so do ours!"

chefbea 3:36 PM  

@guinevere33 whats that all about. Don't understand

Vega 3:39 PM  

Others have already said all of this but it bears repeating because I am still so pissed off. Wrong. The puzzle was just plain wrong, and on a *Tuesday.* It is indeed demoralizing, and again, on a *Tuesday,* to know that there is simply no way that I am going to get the long theme answers except through the crosses. And then the crosses include VETCH and CANA (not being Christian, I had Not A Clue about this) and SPRITS and ONKP? On a *Tuesday*? It's not even like the three names are even *remotely* common. Would perhaps, *perhaps* have been different if their names were Smith Jones and Miller. But Tinker Evers Chance? On a *Tuesday*? Absolutely pissed me off. I just can't believe Will did this to us.


p.s. Baseball? What is that? Some kind of sport, maybe?

Daniel Myers 3:55 PM  

@SethG and Bob,

No, I was thinking of this:


Scroll down to the 1946 and 1951 entries. Your statistician does seem to be on top of things. I must have picked up UNIAC somewhere else---though I could swear! Well, nevermind, sorry to have caused such a kerfuffle!

Rex Parker 3:59 PM  


Is there something ... wrong with the person doing these puzzles that you find? Does he not understand that Downs *and* Acrosses have to make sense? My favorite of today's group was [Rustic lodgings] => HATS. I've heard of the woman who lived in a shoe, but a hat? No.


George NYC 4:03 PM  

Whoa! Take it easy! You sound as angry as a Yankee fan who thought $2625 was for a season ticket, not a single game! IMO, if we're expected to know a little opera, some weird European rivers and enzimes, a little baseball is fair. There are two teams in NYC after all. And T,E and C are known outside the sport, as has been well documented here.

Crosscan 4:04 PM  

Something always bothered me about crosswords. They don't come with instructions. Jumble, Sudoku, KenKen, Acrostic, WonderWord, etc. always explain how they work. Crosswords - nothing. How does someone solve their first crossword puzzle? Downs and Across must make sense? Where does it say that?

Mark Trevor Smith 4:08 PM  

(1) Not a baseball fan, but I've heard "Tinker to Evers to Chance" a million times. Jeez, I would have thought it's well enough known to be used by shibboleth interrogators trying to weed out foreigners from Americans, but I guess it's not. (2) Clearly, RR is saying, "Beep beep." He's running on a road, after all, and all the other things that run on roads say "Beep beep." When's the last time you heard a car say "Meep meep"? Just because you can mispronounce it and not be heard doesn't mean it's the word, like that eternally recurring joke formula: "A shepherd had sixty-six sheep and one of them died...had sixty sick sheep..." (3) If they said "Kitchen Patrol" in the Navy, then I guess it's OK, but surely the term KP was formed by analogy to MP for military police and therefore should be "Kitchen Police." It's funny and it's ironic and it's bitter and it's irreverent and it's rebellious, whereas "Kitchen Patrol" is humdrum and boring.

David from CA 4:12 PM  

Does anyone else remember having this same theme not that many years ago? I know it was in the NYT (I don't do other puzzles) and I remember my dad digging up the poem when I asked him "Who the meep (or beep) are 'Tinker, Evers and Chance'?".
I'm not a baseball fan, so without that earlier x-word experience the names would have been tough, but having the positions gave great big chunks to work off of. Sure beat those puzzles loaded with movie directors, old TV actors, etc...

George NYC 4:15 PM  

UNIVAC was an early computer. Never heard of UNIAC.

Daniel Myers 4:23 PM  

@George NYC Very well, for those too lazy to look up the link, here we are:

The baby boom causes an increase to classroom size, but little electronic technology is used in schools. The first generation Universal Automatic Computer (UNIAC) computer is delivered to the United States Census Bureau. Whirlwind, the first real-time computer is built for the U. S. Air Defense System."

I think perhaps the acronyms UNIAC and UNIVAC were possibly considered interchangeable at some point.

George NYC 4:33 PM  

@mark trevor smith

I agree with all u said except that Kitchen Patrol is boring. If contrast is too overnight ant-submarine patrol in enemy waters, the term is as edgy and irreverany as K police.

humorlesstwit 4:39 PM  

The UNIVersal Automatic Computer = UNIVAC.

Wikipedia Reference

Laurence Hunt 4:43 PM  

OK, I played enough baseball to figure out the positions of the 3 players, though never heard of Tinker, Evers or Chance. Thus I had to work in the opposite direction from you. As a gardener, vetch was easy. It's usually a ground cover in my experience, and often sold in gardening catalogues. I thought this was a brilliant puzzle - especially figuring out that the three players and their positions fit in the same number of spaces. Amazing and brainiacal - or Eniacal?

Jim in Chicago 4:46 PM  


I never thought about the possible need for instructions, it just seems intuitively obvious. Maybe my mom showed me how when I was a young thing, but I don't actually remember.

I remember seeing a copy of one of the very early crosswords, and I believe there may have been instructions attached.

des 4:52 PM  

I am surprised at how many folks think knowing baseball would help. I knew Tinkers to Evers to Chance and knew nothing about their team, when they played, etc. In other words, it is part of the trivia knowledge our culture so loves (a la Ken Jennings).

And I am doubly surprised that no one remarked about TACO being an answer to the clue, "Soft or crunchy snack." It is rarely a snack, and usually eaten with various fillings, sometimes, grilled, etc. etc.

Daniel Myers 4:58 PM  

@humourless---Yes, I've read that. But, do a Google Books search for "uniac computer" and take a look at how many published works use UNIAC not UNIVAC as the acronym---probably because UNIVAC makes it sound like a Maytag product.

spyguy 5:00 PM  

I liked this puzzle but then again I was raised on baseball lore and filled in the theme answers without pause first thing. However, as a life-long St. Louis resident and Cardinal fan, it did not give me nearly as much pleasure as some of the above commenters. I would have really liked "49D They may be stacked against you" to be "cards" not "odds", but wasn't to be. Perhaps later in the week we could have the clue "Traded for Ernie Broglio in one of the most boneheaded moves in base ball history" or "Number of World Series won by the Cardinals since the last Cubs series appearance" or other such thing.

George NYC 5:00 PM  

@ Daniel Myers

With all due respect, I think the Web entry you quote contains a typo. (And just because I couldn't look up the link on my mobile phone hardly makes me "lazy.")

You left out the very next entry from that (Canadian) site:

"UNIVAC is used to predict the 1952 United States presidential election. No one believes its prediction, based on 1% of the vote, that Eisenhower will sweep the election. He does."

I doubt the same source would call it UNIAC in one instance, then UNIVAC directly below.

PS: A google for UNIAC produces zero computer-related hits.

Daniel Myers 5:11 PM  

@George NYC Try "Uniac computer" on Google and, especially on Google Books. Also,we rather overlapped in our postings, so have a look at my previous post. For what it's worth, I'm full willing to concede that UNIVAC is now the accepted acronym. But there are many published authors who thought otherwise.--(Sighs) Perhaps "V" IS for Vendetta.

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

@Daniel - I tried searching "Uniac Computer" on Google Books.
Top Line returned:

Information No results found for "uniac computer"

John 5:23 PM  

All this UNIAC/UNIVAC talk reminds me of the movie DESK SET with Kathrine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. He played a Efficency Expert who invented a calculator nicknamed "EFFIE"

chefbea 5:24 PM  

@spyguy - so you live in St. Louis, my home town. E-mail me and we can discuss the gateway to the west.

Daniel Myers 5:26 PM  

@anonymous - Odd, that. The second book that pops up when I search it is Effective Strategies in the Teaching of Mathematics by Velta Clarke (2003,360 pages) w/ the following line: "The first electronic computer UNIAC was completed in 1946."

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

@ Rex - I suspect the bizarre answers that show up are due to multiple terrible solvers slowly working over the puzzle all day, without checking whether any of their answers make sense with what's already been written in. Also, some of them speak Chinese as a first language, which can't possibly help.

Crosscan 5:30 PM  

When did the 3 and out rule get repealed?

George NYC 5:35 PM  

@daniel et al

To state the obvious, just because a term turns up on the Internet doesn't mean it's the correct term. As in all research, judgment must be used, sources weighed. One problem with using the Internet, is that incorrect facts get repeated--forever. It seems clear in this dispute that UNIVAC far outscores UNIAC as the correct answer. When you google UNIAC it says: did you mean UNIVAC? That's a big tip-off.

Search Results


Did you mean: univac computer Top 2 results shown
UNIVAC I - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mar 8, 2009 ... 171-page transcript of oral history with computer pioneers involved with the Univac computer, held on 17-18 May 1990, Washington DC. ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNIVAC_I - 44k - Cached - Similar pages
UNIVAC - J Presper Eckert and John Mauchly
The UNIVAC - the first commercially available computer invented by J Presper Eckert and John ... The UNIVAC flow chart and pictures of the UNIVAC computer. ...
inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa062398.htm - 28k - Cached - Similar pages

Anonymous 5:42 PM  

So, ENIAC was the first electronic computer, completed in 1946 (cited in about a billion places) and simultaneously "The first electronic computer UNIAC was completed in 1946" (cited in one or two). We've got a choice here, typos or parallel universes.

What the hell, I'll go with parallel universes.

Daniel Myers 5:43 PM  

@George---Yes, quite. I've already conceded this point.

Once upon was UNIVAC
A few preferred it UNIAC.
Nobody quite knew how to say,
But UNIVAC, it won the day.

Just some doggerel that might show up on a Google Books search in the future.

joho 5:47 PM  

@Mark Trevor Smith: While I definitely prefer MEEP MEEP just because it sounds funnier, you're probably right. When I have computer problems with my Time/Warner RoadRunner account I dial 489-BEEP. I mean, they oughta know what sound the roadrunner makes, no?

@JannieB: Awwwwwwwwwww!

dk 6:14 PM  

Instructions for a crossword sounds like a bad joke. Speaking of bad jokes.

So a pork chop walks into a bar and sez:

"Barkeep! Whiskey and make it a double."

The bartender looks at the pork chop and sez:

"Sorry we don't serve food here."

meep meep!

Shin Kokin Wakashu 6:41 PM  

For me the problem was not just "they expect us to know obscure baseball stuff"; it's that the entire puzzle was crafted around a set of theme answers that I literally had no possibility of getting without the crosses. This is a demoralizing way to begin a puzzle, and it just gets things off to a sour start. Then when I work through the entire thing and find out that I cannot complete the puzzle because of VETCH and SPRITS, it caps off the puzzle on a sour note as well.

I recall seeing obscure sports figures, literary works, operas, etc. in puzzles before, of course. But I do not recall ever doing a puzzle where the *theme* was this obscure and ungettable without prior knowledge.

mac 6:43 PM  

Thank you dk, and thank you for the rhyme, Daniel Myers. Imagine, all this discussion about some 1908baseball players and a 1946 computer....

@Mark Trevor Smith: when you listen very carefully, it is actually a very guttural m, like "gmeep"8-)!

Glitch 7:00 PM  


Why do you think they call them "Cross word puzzles"?

This was asked before, was it you?

Along with the Police / Patrol it seems like "de je vous" all over again --- but with a side trip over to the eniac / uniac / univac universe.

Then there's the "don't know baseball, vetch, or sprits" crowd who's main complaint is that it's "Tuesday".

It's a loverly day in the neighborhood.


ArtLvr 7:12 PM  

@ anon -- EE-vers! Learn something new every day, and it's the more amazing to hear he was from Troy NY, right across the Hudson River. RPI and the "Birthplace of Uncle Sam" get all the PR.

@ Hudson Hawk -- Thanks for picking up on the CHILI with Hot dog topper clue. (See also the CS puzzle today). Moreover, we overlooked the whole Wedding Feast at CANA! Plenty of food, including water turned into wine, reportedly.

Vega 7:12 PM  

Ai-yi-yi! Boy, do I realize, upon re-reading my comment, how *cross* I sound. Sorry, everyone.

Striving for more perspective in future comments,

Frieda 7:18 PM  

Eldest found me laughing over the day's cumulus Rexworld comments and just said, "let me guess, baseball." I added, "but then there was U/ENI(V)AC, KP, and by the way what does your roadrunner say?" @Glitch, verily loverly.

(hers beeps)

chefwen 7:36 PM  

I didn't go MEEP MEEP while reading this blog, I went EEK EEK as my beautiful cat presented me with a Japanese White Eye bird; dropped it right on my completed puzzle. Fortunately for me and the bird it was still alive and managed to escape after I opened up the doors. Having dead animals on my correctly completed puzzle isn't a good thing.

Know a bit about baseball and got all the positions in correctly but wasn't sure about the names but managed to get it right with the fill. Husband came home and I related the theme fill and he said "oh you mean TINKER/EVERS/CHANCE" I guess every baseball loving kid knows that lore.

Crosscan 7:45 PM  

@glitch - Likely was me. i started the day with a recycled comment so why not continue? Its the Best of Crosscan.
3+++ and out

michael 8:33 PM  

This was for me the easiest NYT puzzle I've ever done. But I am an enormous fan of baseball and baseball history. If there were comparable clues about opera, I'd be hopelessly stuck....

Orange 9:02 PM  

Shin K.W. wrote the entire puzzle was crafted around a set of theme answers that I literally had no possibility of getting without the crosses. Now, that is one of my main objections to quote themes, and I'm glad Will Shortz accepts so few crosswords with such themes.

Chris Kern 9:40 PM  

At least with quote themes, the items in the quote will be standard words, and even if you have never heard the quote before you can often fill in the missing words just from context. Names are a different story.

(This is Shin Kokin Wakashu; I changed my display name to something less obscure. :-)

Lisa in Kingston 10:33 PM  

I know everybody has all gone on to the Weds. puzzle, but I must say, this is one of the worst comment boards at RPDtNYTXWP I have read in a long long time. Talk about trolls, they were here today.
Oh, and even though I did not know the Cubs meme, I got it easily from the crosses.
Cheers, everyone.

Chris Kern 10:41 PM  

Am I the only one who can't open Wed.'s puzzle?

Rex Parker 10:44 PM  

@Lisa, are you kidding? Where are the trolls? I just don't see them. There have been so many Far Far worse days for trolls (and general ugliness) in the comments section. Beating a dead horse is not the same as being a troll. Hating the puzzle - also not the same.

@Chris, no, you're not the only one. I got a bootleg copy, so I just did it, but the NYT site appears to be AKOFU (an acronym I just invented).


Lisa in Kingston 10:46 PM  

@ Chris Kern aka Shin: I have a file corrupt message, same for you?

George NYC 10:59 PM  

Me also unhave ability to open Wed puzzle.

@Lisa, I think unfair for u to trash a whole day of commentary w no explanation. Don't know what u mean by "trolls". If u no likey endless univac posts, e.g., of which I was large part, why not just say so?

Lisa in Kingston 10:59 PM  

I'm sorry, Rex, really, it just seemed to me that there was way too much going on here for a pretty easy puzzle. I probably went overboard on the definition of troll since the main complainer was one I'd never heard of before. I apologize to all concerned.
After all, I am new here too, although I don't feel like I am, since I have been lurking from very nearly your blog's incept date. Reading a complete set of comments from five (or six, or four, whatever) back is way easier than "real time!" Good lesson for me on how to comment.

Lisa in Kingston 11:06 PM  

@ George NYC, I appreciate your comments re: Eniac/Univac. As I posted above, I have a lot to learn about commenting and I apologize for the offense you felt.

George NYC 11:27 PM  

Tks for explanation. Your comment to RP makes sense RE blogs, I think erring on side of posting rather than not is logical. A blog is a blog is a blog. PS: this is what happens when Red Sox game is rained out.

Elaine 11:31 PM  

Still no good download for the Wednesday puzzle! It's 8:30 PM out here on the "left coast," I am TOTALLY bummed. Hope it at least shows up in the morning!

Lisa in Kingston 11:42 PM  

@ George NYC: I'm sorry about the rainout. Spring is lovely yet difficult, no?
I love baseball too. The Mariners are tough to love. Whoops, no crossword connection, I'm outta here!

mac 11:45 PM  

Yankees won! Good night.

fergus 12:39 AM  

A's lost.

Looking forward to the game tomorrow, where I can sit in a box row seat, watching the spin of the slider, hear a foul tip, and imagine that ESPN pretense is real enough.

Vega 1:27 AM  

In case anyone's still up and cares over here on the Left Coast, the Wednesday NYT puzzle is up and running now.

Anonymous 1:41 AM  

Hi, its the very pokey poster here. Like Lisa, I largely lurk, if I get the chance at all. Baseball - meh - still I can appreciate today's feat of construction. But what's up with the rerun
from yesterday? RockRabbit

Lisa in Kingston 1:57 AM  

Hey anon@1:41, I no longer lurk, but I can dig largely lurk--wish I'd thought of it first! ; )

Anonymous 2:42 AM  

ok, sox lost too ( real sox, white ones)

either way, keep drinking the Koolaid cubs fans

- - early

the redanman 1:53 PM  

I'm late to this puzzle, but GREAT! theme; easy if you know TINKER to EVERS to CHANCE which I as a kid baseball fan learned; but I don't watch 20 games a year any more. Memory endures and trumps all.

LeCarre is perhaps my favorite author: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy came from an English childhood (nursery) rhyme:

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggarman thief. In the absolutely lovely BBC/Paramount production (Which Leader Rex has shown the media cover) of this - which LeCarre himself calls his favorite film adaptation of any his books - there is a scene in which the inner circle use this children's song to remember potential suspects names in code seeking out the mole. Sailor is dropped because it sounds too much like tailor and they only needed five ....

I actually haven't read the book yet as I have a hole in the middle of his oeuvre to get back to read.

Probably way more than anyone wanted to know .....

TimeTraveller 12:00 PM  

5wl the road runner video clip has been removed from circulation, so the energy is gone from the beep meep thread.

When Alec Guinness died I was expecting a retrospective of his work so I could watch Tinker, Tailor again--really one of the great productions. Didn't happen.

Sprit sail (or sprits'l) seems still in the language to me. Masts were extended to raise sails higher when the old wooden ships were becalmed or in the doldrums. Some charming names for the sails, too: sky sail, moonraker. Course maybe the language is on The Far Side of the World or in Hornblower books.

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