2001 best seller about competitive Scrabble / WED 6-18-14 / One-named singer who married Heidi Klum / Bindle toters / Wonderland cake message / Newport Beach isle

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Constructor: Amy Johnson

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium 



THEME: BLANK TILE (58A: What you'd need to play 26-, 29-, 43- or 45-Across) — A Scrabble-related theme, where all the theme answers contain two of a letter for which there is only one tile in Scrabble (hence the need for the BLANK TILE to play the word—BLANK TILEs can be any letter you want them to be, or so I understand; I don't play)

Theme answers:
  • JUJITSU (26A: Japanese "soft art" (max opening score of 92 points))
  • TSKTSKS (29A: Sounds of censure (max opening score of 80 points))
  • SPAZZES (43A: Totally inept sorts (max opening score of 104 points))
  • XEROXED (45A: Ran off, in a way (max opening score of 94 points))
Word of the Day: SEAL (7D: One-named singer who married Heidi Klum) —
Seal Henry Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel (born 19 February 1963), known by his mononym Seal, is a British soul and R&B singer-songwriter. He has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and is known for his numerous international hits, including "Kiss from a Rose", which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1995 film Batman Forever. He was a coach on The Voice Australia in 2012 and 2013.
Seal has won numerous music awards throughout his career, including three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male in 1992, four Grammy Awards, and an MTV Video Music Award. As a songwriter, he received the Ivor Novello award, for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, in consecutive years for "Killer" (1990)and "Crazy" (1991). [ed.: IVOR!] [wikipedia]
• • •

This puzzle had a tough hill to climb with me from the get-go, as I can't stand Scrabble. I won't go into detail, but, yeah, joyless game for insufferably competitive word-list memorizers (except you—you're not like that at all; I wasn't talking about you). Yuck. I think I read some of WORD FREAK a decade or so ago—whenever it came out. But I couldn't finish; nothing to do with the writing, everything to do with the culture being documented. So, as I say, I was not predisposed to like this. Adjusting for that prejudice, this seems a decent enough puzzle. It doesn't seem any great shakes to get these particular words into the grid. Lots of words have two "K"s, or two "Z"s, so the word choices seem quite arbitrary. Also, TSKTSKS is possibly the worst word ever invented—no joy seeing that in the grid. But the puzzle has a consistent core concept, and WORD FREAK is a good, reasonably contemporary tie-in, and the fill is no worse than average, so I'll give this a passing grade. If nothing else, the Scrabbly letters get you some colorful crosses.


I was under the impression that SPAZ(ZES) was pejorative / offensive, and several dictionaries say "yes," but other sites say that the word lost whatever offensiveness it used to have, or that, at any rate, offensiveness is contextual. To me this word is like "retard," in the sense that I used it all the time when I was a kid to refer to, say, my sister, but I would never use it now (having acquired a somewhat larger vocabulary and a somewhat greater desire not to offend people unnecessarily). I found the word jarring, however Scrabble-legal. But I can't get too mad at a puzzle that contains EAT ME, PRICK!


Bullets:
  • 1D: Mini-metro (TOWN) — I had no idea what this was getting at. To me, a "metro" is a form of public transportation. I think I wrote in TRAM.
  • 6D: 1974 Mocedades hit whose English version is titled "Touch the Wind" ("ERES TU") — the only (and I mean only) thing that redeems this lengthy piece of pure crosswordese is its symmetrically with Yet Another U-ending word (XANADU).
  • 65A: Guinness word (MOST) — it only occurred to me just now that this answer has nothing to do with beer.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

103 comments:

wreck 12:13 AM  

Very easy Wednesday, and I have not played Scrabble in over 30 years!
Wow - the new NYT Crossword is app is GREATLY IMPROVED! Many thanks to @Mark for pointing out the app needs to be played in portrait mode on the ipad.

Anonymous 12:15 AM  

I, too, was quite shocked at 'spazzes'. A slang for 'spastic', a word no longer seen as acceptable.

jae 12:23 AM  

Easy Wed. even for this non-Scrabble player @wreck.  Although I've seen enough Scrabble stuff in crosswords to know about points and BLANK TILES.   My only problem was sticking in a wrong one-named singer before remembering SEAL.

Lively theme answers, a smooth grid  (well maybe not ATTS),  liked it. 

And, for future reference, I'd appreciate not reading about the BEQ Mon. puzzle here until the end of the week.  I usually get around to it on Wed.   Thanks in advance. 

SenorLynn 12:25 AM  

Rex, you 'can't stand' Scrabble! Wow.
Theme was pretty good. Only write-over was ScReamS for SHRIEKS.
Disn't like clue for 56D: PERT for smart aleky?

August West 12:35 AM  

"Jarred" and "shocked?"

Were ya? Really?

Those guys are spazz...zzes!

chefwen 12:47 AM  

I wish Andrea were still hanging around us, I would love to hear her take on this puzzle, Scrabble Maven that she is.

I had the opposite take than @Rex, I absolutely loved it. Had a big old smile throughout the solve.

We went to see SEAL in concert at Humphrey's in San Diego. Being built pretty close to the ground, I couldn't see a thing. Proceeded to bitch and moan about everyone standing up making viewing even more difficult, so one of the guys we were with grabbed my and his girlfriends hand and muscled our way to the front of the stage where we were within sweating distance of him. OMG a middle aged, swooning person is not a pretty sight, but it sure was fun.

What do y'all think @EVIL and his little ducky will have to say about EAT ME & PRICK. Time will only tell

r.alphbunker 12:54 AM  

First time I remember ever seeing PRICK in a puzzle was this BEQ. I just redid it. Good times.

I also remember a Fireball puzzle that had an answer that was impossible to play in Scrabble.

Steve J 1:20 AM  

At first, as the Scrabble-theme became quickly apparent, I though this was pretty ho-hum. Point values in Scrabble in the clues. Whee. But then realizing that all the words required BLANK TILES was pretty nice. Clever idea that was well-executed.

I was surprised to see that TSKTSKS is a legal Scrabble word. To me, it needs a hyphen, and I thought hyphenation ruled it out of Scrabble legality.

I was also very surprised by SPAZZES. While I think too much can be made out of words themselves as opposed to the intent behind them, in a general-circulation publication like the NYT, it seems a bit anachronistic and off-kilter.

Liked SHRIEKS and COHORT. TAKES TEN felt a little forced, as it seems to me like the phrase is always about taking five. I spent my first several years of post-college life working in newspapers, and I have no recollection of OBITs being black-bordered. Minor issues in a nice, clever Wednesday.

Steve J 1:22 AM  

@Wreck: I've always done the puzzle in portrait orientation on iPad. After seeing your comment, I checked the puzzle in landscape. Wow. That's awful.

I did see in the release notes for the new version that the next update is going to improve the landscape orientation. I am quite happy with this update, especially addressing the two main gripes I had: skipping filled-in clues and highlighting cross-referenced clues (not an issue today, but it was indicated in the release notes).

Questinia 3:27 AM  

@ Steve J, completely agree with TSKTSKS.

This puzzle reminds me of the time I asked an older woman to play Scrabble with me when I was a teenager. She smugly and imperiously informed me that she only plays with good players and intimated she wouldn't want to waste her time playing with *me*. I finally got her to acquiesce. Her smugness grew when she drew a tile enabling her to put down the first word which included a "c".
My letters were UXOTQII. So I put down QUIXOTIC off her C and got the 50 extra points for using all my tiles. I got something like 120 points on the first word and continued to slam her throughout the game with an EAT ME, PRICK attitude but with a slight touch of an air manqué as I wished to appear wistfully dissatisfied with my performance. But it was the best I ever played. There's something about overbearing haughtiness in others which sends glucose to my brain much like Spinach to the arms of Popeye. At least when I was a teenager.


Susierah 6:21 AM  

Whoa! It had never occurred to me to do the puzzle in portrait mode! It looks so much better! I had never heard of Word Freak, but gettable after I, like, Rex, figured out a mini metro was a town, not a tram. But a dnf because I thought it was Joab, not Joad. I loved the "scrabbliness" of this puzzle.

Arlene 6:58 AM  

I've always been a Scrabble fan - don't play much anymore. The app "Words with Friends" is a popular approximation of Scrabble these days.
I had KLUTZES before I changed it to SPAZZES (which I feel is offensive slang)- Note that spell check on this comment box says that SPAZZES isn't a word. Interesting conundrum.

NYer 7:09 AM  

DNF at the JOAx/xOT cross as I inferred "x" to mean "unknown" instead of "times" and couldn't think of a word to mean that; plus, forgot about the JOADS.

Mohair Sam 7:37 AM  

Enjoyed this one a lot, although we do fall toward the Rex side on Scrabble (think we just played it too often over too many years).

@SteveJ - Nice catch on TSKTSKS, never thought of that - can you imagine the family battle if you dropped that word on the board in the pre-Google days?

Normally not much of a PC person, but yeah - if we're going to stop using the word "retard" as an insult (as we should) there is no case for SPAZZES. I'm sure the constructor meant no harm, but surprised that the NYT let that slide.

EdFromHackensack 7:45 AM  

Are the "opening scores" given in the clues correct? Can someone check if they have a Scrabble set handy. I recall that blank tiles are zero points. Is the opening word automatically a double score? It just doesnt add up as I sit here on the bus...

Susan McConnell 7:50 AM  

I giggled my way through this one in anticipation of Rex's known anti-Scrabble bias. I love Scrabble, play in leagues, read Word Freak, own and have watched the movie (yes, they made a movie of it), love the culture and very colorful cast of characters. I thought the puzzle was fun, albeit easy. But I have to admit that if there were a puzzle based heavily on say, rappers, or comic book characters, my comments would not be so charitable. So Rex, I feel for you and think you did a fair job reviewing through gritted teeth.

Susan McConnell 7:55 AM  

@EdfromHackensack, Keep in mind that in all of the opening words in the puzzle, the high point tile will be on a double letter, plus the double word, plus the 50 point bonus. The points given in the puzzle are correct.

Dawn 7:57 AM  

Well, I adored this puzzle and agree with Rex, I just go into SPAZZES sitting around to play that bored-uh, I mean, board game.

I think TSKTSKS, without hyphen, is correct. No one says just TSK. Unless theyre very shy.

EdFromHackensack 8:05 AM  

Thanks Susan. Totally forgot about the 50 point bonus for using 7 letters. And the opening word is always a double score. But am I correct in saying that the blank tile scores no points? (Been awhile since I played Scrabble)

Hartley70 8:08 AM  

It's the Hatfield's and McCoy's in my family. My sister is an obsessively competitive league scrabble player and I, well I like crosswords. I refuse to memorize the lists of two, three and for all I know, four letter words, so it's on the rare occasion that I can best her. It tends to make for some tense family holiday gatherings. Hence I'm with Rex on this one. I prefer my mental challenges to be solitary struggles....except when I can kick her little ---, of course!
Puzzle was fun except it didn't last long enough for a Wednesday. I prefer a tootsie roll pop to a couple of m&m's.

Glimmerglass 8:10 AM  

I agree with Ed from Hackensack. I think the scoring assumes that the second high-scoring tile ( a blank) also scores high. It doesn't. The "opening" play is on the central square, a double-word square, but the scores don't add up. I don't own a scrabble set, because I dislike the game, and so I can't check. I alwaysI want to show off my vocabulary, which is bad Scrabble strategy. Winners play cautiously and never open up bonus squares to the opponents. Little old ladies regularly kick my butt at Scabble.

Glimmerglass 8:11 AM  

I agree with Ed from Hackensack. I think the scoring assumes that the second high-scoring tile ( a blank) also scores high. It doesn't. The "opening" play is on the central square, a double-word square, but the scores don't add up. I don't own a scrabble set, because I dislike the game, and so I can't check. I alwaysI want to show off my vocabulary, which is bad Scrabble strategy. Winners play cautiously and never open up bonus squares to the opponents. Little old ladies regularly kick my butt at Scabble.

loren muse smith 8:12 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
loren muse smith 8:13 AM  

I saw the trick early, too, and I'm pretty much a non-scrabble player. Once in a blue moon, my family will drag the board out (along with a dictionary from the '70s) immediately build a constipated little mess right in the middle, and then argue the rest of the time. The only game we play that results in even worse arguing is a rousing game of four-square.

COHORT next to ABET was nice, as was PATE/EAT ME. Man. I can eat my weight in that stuff. Even the liverwurst from the grocery store. I also really appreciated, for some reason, POSSIBLY and SHRIEKS.

I can't see the word PLUME and not remember The Exorcist when the priest asks Regan about foreign languages, and at one point she says, "La PLUME de ma tante" and laughs. Creepy.

I imagine there's only one Q tile, too? ALBUQUERQUE would have been cool coming across the middle, but probably impossible. QUACK QUACK is a ten.

@jae – sorry. Mea culpa. I didn't say his name, but, honestly, who else could it have been?

@Questinia – great story! I have a similar "There's something about overbearing haughtiness in others which sends glucose to my brain" story. On a plane once when I settled into my seat with a Sunday NYT puzzle, the man next to me said, in a dismissive, snarky way that ruffled my feathers, "What. You gonna finish that during this flight?" Now, granted, we had to taxi for longer than usual, but as the plane was leaving the ground for take-off, I poked him and showed him the finished puzzle. I'm not a fast solver, but boy his snarkiness was that spinach for me!

Nice job, Amy. I bet this was a bear to create – all those hard letters plus the two extra K's in WORD FREAK and BLANK TILE. I enjoyed it.

Susan McConnell 8:15 AM  

@EdFromHackensack, yes, no points for the blank tile.

@Glimmerglass, see my previous comments. In addition to getting a double word score, an opening 7 letter play will also hit a double letter score and the score given in the puzzle assumes that the high point tile is on that double letter space.

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

Great puzzle. Here's the music video that Rex SHOULD have posted, the song that allows me to recall the Steinbeck character:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-mq0uJ7rlM

He's still The Boss.

jberg 8:27 AM  

As far as I've heard, SIOUX, like SPAZZES, is originally derogatory -- what the French called the Dakota -- but often used by people who don't realize that.

But that's OK -- any puzzle with a Latin POC (60A) is OK in my book!

Me too for ScReamS, and also Ian before IRA -- didn't realize I knew IRA Levin until I entered the correction, I just say a 3-letter name starting with I and wrote Ian automatically. Have to remember the other possibility next time.

I used to play Scrabble, but not for a long time. Just remember, when @Rex says he's not talking about you, he's fibbing.

Dawn 8:31 AM  

@ wreck and @ Steve J.

About ipad,

After trying portrait, went back to landscape. The keyboard is so much smaller on portrait. Does that bother you?

dk 8:32 AM  

������ (3 MOONS)

Fun and relevant as it seems Scrabble Tourneys are on the summer docket. Andrea will grace the Badger State in a month or so to show us her tiles.

Used to use Scrabble as a low impact assessment of cognitive impairment in young adults. Some alleged SPAZZES would JUJITSU the board and end with a resounding EATME.

Just waltzed through this one. Made me feel like I knew what I was doing.

You know my name 8:33 AM  

Rote in crossword, personified. I have never seen such a collection of reflex fill. The fact the theme is Scrabble, only adds to the misery of this joyless puzzle. How appropriate that I write this on my wife's iPad. Puke.

Loved spazzed, was looking for retarded as well.

The captchas are orders of magnitude easier on Apple products, why?

Nancy 8:33 AM  

Very nice for a Wednesday. More interesting than most. A knowledge of Scrabble is not needed to solve. All you really need to know is that certain letters like J, Z, and X get the most points. You don't have to count up the points; I surely didn't.

Kathy 8:36 AM  

I don't see why tsktsks would need a blank tile. There are 3 k's in scrabble.

joho 8:39 AM  

@Loren, you beat me to it mentioning COHORT/ABET ... very nice combo.

My only writeover was cREME to KREME making this a pretty easy Wednesday. But certainly not a boring Wednesday! The scrabbliness of the answers
brought a liveliness to the grid.

Also fresh clues for OBIT, SSTS, TOWN, OBOE and OLIO jazzed up these old standbys.

@SenorLynn, I thought the same thing about the clue for PERT but looked it up and it's correct ... so we both learned something!

I'm not a Scrabble player but I sure appreciate how Amy translated the game into a very entertaining, to me, crossword puzzle. I liked it!

Bushwah 8:40 AM  

On the subject of the offensiveness of SPAZZES. This was one of a few hundred words which the powers that be expunged from the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, the commercially available officially sanctioned word list (read WORDFREAK to learn more!). Anyway, SPAZZES remained in the Official tournament Word List used by tournament players, but was deemed too offensive for the masses. So interestingly if you pull out your OSPD you bought at the bookstore, you will not find SPAZZES in it!

Anyway, as a relapsed tourney Scrabble player, I actually wasn't all that excited by this puzzle. There are many words that require a blank, why these ones? Nothing wrong with the puzzle, and generally decent fill, but the theme just didn't grab me.

Richard Bynum 9:04 AM  

The secret to enjoyable Scrabble is not to use the Scrabble "dictionary". Only real words! Webster's collegiate is good.

Down with word list memorizers!

chefbea 9:20 AM  

What a great puzzle. I play Scrabble and words with friends on the computer...even play with some Rexites. Great games. Anyone want to play with me...I'm available.

Was stumped at jujitsu so DNF

mathguy 9:23 AM  

I seem to remember SPAZ being in a previous, rather recent, NYT puzzle, no?

@Kathy: I just checked my board. It lists only one "k."

My wife is a Words With a Friends aficionado. Although it needed some crunch, I enjoyed it.

NCA President 9:31 AM  

My regular dictionary has TSK TSK in it, but there is a space between the TSKs. When used in a sentence, there is a comma. "She couldn't finish the Monday Times puzzle, poor thing. Tsk, tsk."

Rex, IMHO, is missing the point on Scrabble. It's a great educational/mind engaging game that brings a family together for a couple of hours. What's not to like? Sure, you can play cards or Monopoly, but Scrabble is a fun alternative and sometimes you actually learn something. My family was never über-strict about the rules or deep into it, but I have wonderful memories of playing getting the Scrabble board out in the mid-afternoon during college breaks, whiling away a couple of hours before dinner.

I'm on a MacBook Pro and just discovered the NYT applet...looks like no more AcrossLite for me...except for the BEQ puzzles and whatnot. The on-site app is really good.

I liked the puzzle...TSKTSKS aside, I liked JUJITSU, PLUME, and JOADS.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

I was really hoping you'd keep the Stephen Malkmus video trend going today with this puzzle-related song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSbDqwJLl7I

Bob Friedman 9:39 AM  

I am a scrabble player. As other players have mentioned, the blank tiles do not count in the score for words and opening words get a double word score. The scores the puzzle's author lists are correct, since the high scoring letter can be placed on a double letter score.

Z 9:39 AM  

Fascinating that so many crossword enthusiasts have a disdain for scrabble. Hmmmm. I get beaten by my wife whenever we play, but not my favorite form of competitive pattern recognition. In fact, I'm really not into any form of competitive pattern recognition. I do like pattern recognition puzzles, hence my love of rebus puzzles and other crossword tricks, but the only person I'm competing with is me.

@Questina - great story.

@Susan McConnell - thanks for the explanation. I was having the "it doesn't add up unless you count the blank" confusion.

SPAZZES' link to the pejorative seems pretty dated to me. Having mediated a few middle school bullying situations, it was not a term that ever came up. Seems right out of the 70's and 80's more than this century to me. For better or worse, most pejoratives I dealt with were scatological, with "idiot" and "stupid" still being common exceptions. SPAZZES didn't register as a term to avoid as I solved, although it seems pretty obvious now that it has been pointed out. I wonder if the connection to the original insult is generally forgotten, like we no longer remember why "gee" or "gosh" are curses.

Fine Wednesday.

Casco Kid 9:42 AM  

Fun solve. Guessed right at OLIO/LIDO. ERESTU and JUJITSU gettable from crosses. I didn't get the BLANKTILE point until coming here. I was half expecting empty squares, as has been done with Wheel of Fortune themed puzzles.

But the highlight is reading Rex on SPAZZES, specifically how he hates to insult people unnecessarily. Gold.

@SenorLynn @joho, [Smart-alecky] is my shampoo of choice. Because I'm worth it.

wreck 9:44 AM  

@ Dawn

The slightly smaller keyboard was welcome for me - it was big enough to type comfortably but doesn't take up real estate. The portrait mode lets you see the whole grid without re-sizing and most of the clues in one view. The portrait mode also lets you see the across clue and the corresponding down clue at the same time. It was night and day for me. I'm sticking with portrait at least until they re-design the landscape mode.

Leapfinger 9:49 AM  

In my case, the glucose invariably goes to my brain 5 minutes after 'overbearing haughty' has walked out the door. But when it gets there, the retort is always Killer Quality.

In recent years, @lorena, PLUME makes me think of PLaME, tant pis.

Liked the puzzle, not every Wednesday has to be a hardSCRABBLE solve. I aren't a Scrabble FREAK, so...as per usual, many of the things I enjoyed were ancillary:
TOMS ATOM
JETTA SSTS
ZOOMIN Mehta
EMINOR's back, today without the customary raft of ELINORs
SATED beside Krispy KREME (is that possible?)
A girl named SIOUX [sic], lives in my town
Remembering 'MIRO, MIRO on the wall'
Thinking HO BOS are more commonly known as 'johns'
Knowing someone who has taken up Transcendentalism, calls a seance a rap session, describes herself as a SEER sucker.


Got interested in COHORT as an ABETter, since I think of COHORT either as the Assyrian's gleaming purple&gold, -or- in the Epidemiol sense, as in, the entire sophomore COHORT does yada yada. Tried to think of other words with HORT root, and could only think of exHORT and HORTiculture.

Which sensitized me to the 'culture' references in the grid:
OPERA
Erik SATED
UPTOP Sinclair
The ATRIAnon Palace at Versailles, built by Louis XIV as a personal fast-food joint
Stephen SPENDer, POET

SPENDer wrote:
For I had expected always
Some brightness to hold in trust
Some final innocence
To save from dust

Such a Romantic.

ATTS all, Folks. If you enjoyed any of this, by all MEANS, YOUR MOST Welcome!

r.alphbunker 9:53 AM  

I once wrote a program to play Scrabble. The first word it played was HELIX for 42 points. I played IDIOT off the I and added idiotS/SAVANTS on my next turn. :-)

@M and A

When Bob and Loren raved over your runtpuz yesterday I went back and found out what they were raving about. Amazing! This inspired me to do a spinoff. See runtpuz.org

Bob Kerfuffle 10:11 AM  

Turned out to be fairly easy, but when I first saw the theme clues, I thought they gave a certain Thursday-ish cast to the puzzle.

Just lowed down a bit in Minnesota, had 5 A as BELT before VEST.

I suppose if one were looking for a nit to pick, one could say that 41 A, Quark's place, for ATOM, misses the point a bit. Quarks make up the particles that make up the atom; it's not like there are free-floating quarks in the atom.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

A "joyless game for insufferably competitive word-list memorizers." Sounds like the way some (not you--you're not like that at all) approach the NYT crossword puzzle. :)

Lewis 10:24 AM  

@chefwen --before I even read your post re Acme, I was thinking the same thing. You are missed here, Andrea.

Haven't heard BINDLE since forever. Loved the clue for XEROXED.

I have a love/hate with Scrabble. Love it because of my wordy-nerdiness, but hate all those little words you have to know to get an edge against experienced players.

This felt pretty easy for a Wednesday, no big holdups. And the blank tile angle was clever.

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™): Find two answers that are anagrams of each other. Switch the last letter of one to increase its Scrabble point value and you will get the first name of a game show host (pretend that names are allowed in Scrabble). The answer is at runtpuz.org

Two Ponies 10:37 AM  

Hmm, Never heard of the book or the soda bread so that crucial cross gave me a DNF. I guessed Word Break. Oh well. The rest was rather easy. Too bad I stumbled.

Steve J 10:40 AM  

@Questinia: Great story!

@Dawn: I find the keyboard too big in landscape mode. I'm pretty adept at thumb-typing in portrait, and it's the right size for my hands.

Back to TSKTSKS: Looking it up in a few different dictionaries, most have TSK TSK or TSK-TSK, but there are a couple that have TSKTSK. I can't recall ever seeing it written that way, but then again it's not something I see written much at all outside of crosswords.

AliasZ 10:58 AM  


Why do you smile that liverish smile?
Why do you double over in a spaz and a swoon,
gurgling on my past, my grief, my bile?
Am I a joke?
Am I a gas?


from Letters to Dr. Y. by the POET Anne Sexton (1928-1974)

SPAZZES is a fine word. I have been called "Laz the spazz" (hi @Katica), spasmoid and worse, and often returned the favor. Show me the person who never SPAZZES out.

However, since I like to show the world around me how sensitive and considerate I am thereby making me feel better about myself and superior to others, nowadays I prefer to use the term "people lacking the coordination of a neurosurgeon" or "unfortunate individuals with severely compromised motor skills due to injury to their cerebral cortex or central nervous system." Good luck fitting these on a Scrabble board or in a 15x15 puzzle.

What a fine, scrabbly puzz by Amy Johnson. I enjoyed working through this one, but I think the only thing worse than tsk-tsk is putting it in plural. ERES TU (not to be confused with "Eri tu"), EAT ME and pin-PRICK, LIDO and LIMO, were fun to see. Also the COHORT next door to ABET, and POET sitting atop his/her nom de PLUME. It is full of musical references which I love: OBOE, OPERA, E-MINOR, half of TOMS (tom-tom) or A TOM and the PRICK who plays it, PATÉ Frères, one of the first producers of phonograph records*, etc.

There are tons of beautiful works in E-MINOR besides the amazing Bach bourrée referred to in the clue: Dvořák's New World Symphony, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5, Elgar's Cello Concerto, Symphony No. 10 by Shostakovich, and many others.

Instead of all of that, let me offer this little GEM: the OBOE concerto in E MINOR by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767).

Seriously, something must be wrong with people who hate scrabble.

*I know how to spell "Pathé."

DJG 11:06 AM  

With regards to TSKTSK, one should keep in mind that the Scrabble dictionary is essentially the union of many major dictionaries, so if you find a word any dictionary, chances are it's a valid play in Scrabble.

The only exception that comes to mind is the crossword staple ITER, which is in several dictionaries as a non-proper noun, but isn't good in Scrabble.

I'm a huge Scrabble fan, but I recognize it's reliance on rote memorization is a turnoff for people who like word games where definition and usage actually matter. That's the downside of Scrabble. The upside is that it's really f*cking fun.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

Hey all, Ive been trying to get a puzzle of mine published in the NYT for some time now. Personally I think my puzzles are good (but what constructor doesn't? ) but good ole Will Shortz keeps saying "The theme didn't excite me enough " Is there someplace I could post my rejected puzzles so the world can solve them and then criticize me?

r.alphbunker 11:11 AM  

@Anonymous
11:07

runtpuz.org will publish it. Our motto is "Everything excites us."

Email me.

Leapfinger 11:12 AM  

@r.alph, than for the BEQ. I'm afraid if ever I start with runtpuz.org, I'll never come up for AIRS.

@dk, enjoyed yer main para

@jberg, since your reply about Matisse/Picasso, I've been continuing an intermittent conversation in my mind. For the present, will spare you.

re SPAZZES
As a student, I did a rotation in Ortho, at a time when there were separate Private and Public services, and most student rotations were assigned to the Public services. One of the residents kindly gave me the tip that write-ups should include both active and passive range of motion of the joint in question. So the next patient I saw was a young teenager with cerebral palsy, and here I was trying to get the passive ROM on his elbow. Of course, his muscles had spasticity and the joint kept cog-wheeling, the kid just kept watching my efforts with mild interest. Obviously, I was the SPAZ, TSK TSK.

Now I TAKE STEN in hand to gun down Ms-conceptions on Nellie Bly. Nellie Bly did for mental institutions what UPTOP Sinclair did for meatpacking, but she did it about 50 years earlier (1864 vs 1906 for The Jungle). She was an inventor and industrialist, and as a reporter, hunted down a variety of social ills, ie, she was a veritable one-woman POSSeBLY.

LIMO got me to wondering about the connection between LIMOusines and LIMOusin, France, which incidentally borders Aquitaine to the West. And that brings us to Eleanor of Aquitane (one of my personal heroines) and full circle to our recent raft of Elinors. I love how puzzles interconnect that way.

I also like Manischewitz TAM TAM crackers, esp with PATE.

mac 11:18 AM  

Easy but nice Wednesday, with a solid theme. Somehow I liked the "language".

@Two Ponies: soda brand, good old Fanta.

For what it's worth, I have NEVER heard anyone say tsk or tsktsk. Tut tut, yes.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

tsk and tsktsk are onomatopoeia, not true words, per se

Leapfinger 11:25 AM  

Wrats, we used to have some of those old 78s with the Pathay label. Will grant you the Pathe, but I personally think Stephen SPENDER< POET, tops it.

Carola 11:26 AM  

I thought it was nice puzzle for a crossWORD FREAK, even one (like me) who doesn't know the first thing about Scrabble. Fun to write in JUJITSU, XANADU, SIOUX, SHRIEKS, AZALEAS.... I changed klutZES to SPAZZES with widened eyes.

Am I the only one who had quark located in the deli?

@Alias Z - On the musical references, I liked AIRS crossing OPERA, too.

jdv 11:46 AM  

Easy. Another good puzzle. For some reason I really like UPTOP. I don't have the patience for scrabble. The only time I'll play is if my opponent agrees to 30 seconds per turn. Someone has to say it: pretty scrabbly grid today.

Moly Shu 11:54 AM  

" insufferably competitive " not at all like the ACPT, @Rex ??

I too am surprised at the number of x-worders who disdain Scrabble. I seem to see them as complimentary to each other.

I like Scrabble, I liked the puzzle.

Anoa Bob 12:00 PM  

Long-time scrabble player here, but not a two- and three-letter word list memorizer. I'm with Richard Bynum @9:04. I like real words in scrabble (and in crosswords).

The blank tiles in scrabble are limited (two) because they make it so much easier to fill in words. Same for the letter "S" (four). Next to blanks, they are the easiest to deploy on the board. Big scores often can be had by simply putting one at the end of an already existing high-score word and then dropping in your own killer word that ends with that same "S". Talk about plural of convenience!

That's why excessive use of esses in a puzz usually gives me a frowny-face. They make it much easier to fill the grid without adding value to the overall puzzle. Kinda like adding non-nutritive filler to food; it increases the volume but decreases the quality.

If you are a constructor and have no compunction about POCs, then you'll want to take note of the superPOC enabling SSTS at 13D. Sets the stage for three POCs Across.

The absolute pure gold superPOC enabling xword entry would be ASSASSINS, which I saw recently, in the WaPo, I believe. Put that in the bottom row across or the right-most column down and you've set the stage for a six POC!

TSK TSKS.

Anoa Bob 12:05 PM  

OK, a five POC. But it doesn't have the same ring to it.

Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:12 PM  

Scrabble, two WedPuzs in a row. I kinda prefer Bananagrams, as it seems to move faster. Best word game of all: Fictionary. Best game of all, to get family members gloriously riled up at one another: Sorry. (Cabby is even better for causin fights, but is loooong out of print.)

@63 has c-l-e-a-r-ly arrived, as a crossword critic. He correctly singles out some of the long U-words, in today's excellent offering. (Puzzlingly sidesteps the equally amazin JUJITSU, however.) And, notice -- the bullets are back! A little polite weeject patter, now, and we are talkin "rodeo"! I realize there weren't much decent wj material, today: ATTS is lookin pretty darn good -- in the plural, tho. TSKTSKS is just plain awesome, dude. High country. Double decker wj. Runtpuz-worthy.

@Leapfinger: Admire your tenacity, avoidin the runtz. Even tho U will thereby really leap over seein how low they can manage to go, with today's edition...

@r.alph: Pitifully excellent 2x2 runtpuz, my son. U are both square and well-rounded.
My sincerest apologies, for the likes of that last uppity runtpuz that would even think about receivin rave reviews. It has been severely punished. Everyone please except today's effort, as M&A's humble offerin of proper runtpuz mehness (at the most)...

www.xwordinfo.com/Solve?id=4297&id2=758

Time for a short runtpuz holiday, after this one. Y'all needs to pace yerselves.

M&A
"We Can Do Better -- And Proud Of It"

Anoa Bob 12:25 PM  

From today's HuffingtonPost.com: "5 Blood Tests That Are Worth The Prick".

Z 12:32 PM  

ASSASSINS - five crossing POCs and the original makes six, n'est-ce pas? (pardon my French)

Go Dutch!

Mikey From ABQ 12:36 PM  

Interesting and ironic that the puzzle was a "Q" short of a pangram, especially since the constructor 's name has a "Q." I guess that was the one letter never pulled from the scrabble bag, eh.

Leapfinger 12:38 PM  

That was a little abusive. There were no circled letters.

Shouldn't that have been 'AZI Lay Dying?

[I must stay strong. I must stay strong.]

Two Ponies 12:44 PM  

@ mac, Thanks. Obviously I misread brand for bread. Doh!

M and Also 12:46 PM  

p.s. Wrong again, M&A breath... Last WedPuz was a demo of how to spell Flag Day. Puz before that was about Scrabble, et al. M&A was confused, cuz had been on vacation, and ended up workin both WedPuzs at around the same time.

Meeerrrroooowwwww:
*** PPP(tm) spoiler alert ***


There's a game show host named MOSU?

M&A

chefbea 1:01 PM  

@Mikey from ABQ I don't see a Q in the constructor's name.....Amy Johnson

Bob Kerfuffle 1:09 PM  

@M&A - Wha? and LOL! (3:16)

Anne Meilof 1:36 PM  

Did anyone besides me see "Scarlettu" in 19A (RHETT)?

Gill I. P. 1:38 PM  

Finally got my puzzle.
Loved it for all the reasons all of you have already said.
@Questinia: After I read REX I thought of my Scrabble story as well. We invite our 88 year old neighbor for Sunday lunch from time to time and we always play Scrabble afterwards. She looks at her tiles and invariably utters "oh dear, oh dear." Then with a twinkle in her eye she'll come up with something like IPOMOEA!
@Loren: I tried to E-mail you yesterday but I always have trouble with your nero12. When you can, send me a little note
@Z...Thank you. I'm afraid though that it fell on a deaf ear...
@chefwen: I know!!! Guess where I got the picture????
GO SPAIN!

bewilbered 1:38 PM  

I don't want or deserve to do the "mic-drop" after putting in two cents about SPAZ, but be careful before saying "it's fine...it no longer carries any real pejorative tinge." I have the spastic paraplegia variety of cerebral palsy. Many days can pass without me giving it much thought, or without it coming up in conversation, but when it does arise, I hope I give people cues that it's topic they need not approach too gingerly. I'm pretty laid back about the language of disability, because easy offense gets in the way of a spirit of candor and human connection. Handicapped, cool. Disabled, fine. But I cannot find SPAZ totally innocuous...sorry. Especially clued as a noun rather than a verb. I'm fine with being told to lighten up, but we're not so far removed from its etymology that it now just means "unfocused." It means impaired, with an accompanying loss of dignity.

Last Silver TskTsk 1:45 PM  

@BobK: har! Only wish I'da had the vision to clue the last clue as: "OK. Puz is over. Buzz off!"

@Gill I.P. I want to play Scrabble with yer neighbor. Can't wait to lay down GLAR on her. Make her lose her pureed carrots and drool for mercy.

@LeapF: U did it after all? Well, then get ye to runtpuz.gov, and finish the job. Talk about yer azi die lying project...

M&A

Lewis 1:54 PM  

@m&a -- wrong anagram pair, and MOSU has the sweet aroma of desperation, but now I learned it is a town in Botswana, so thank you for that!

Gill I. P. 2:07 PM  

@Last Silver Tsk Tsk..
Har! She has more teeth than I do and she doesn't like orange poo....

LaneB 2:14 PM  

Interesting puzzle but when I put Probably for POSSIBLY that part of the fill got messy. It didn't help to spell AZALEAS with an e in the third letter. So an unexpected Wednesday DNF, more or less the victim of a loss of patience. Nice idea Ms. Johnson.

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Not knowing anything about pop culture or the Japanese language, I thought ERESTU (like JUJITSU) was Japanese for something or other. The crosses even allowed me to get SEAL without having any idea who he might be. It's bad when you finish a puzzle without understanding what you've done.

Lewis 2:33 PM  

@m&a -- good followup on the last LMS runtp, kind of a meta theme going...

Susan McConnell 2:53 PM  

@Mikey from ABQ, it would have been nice to sneak a Q in there, but to be a theme answer it would have to be a seven letter word with two Qs, and be a valid Scrabble word. I can't think of anything that would fit that description. And squeezing it in the fill just for the sake of a pangram...oy!

Ludyjynn 2:54 PM  

The key to my occasional playing a game of Scrabble and enjoying it is to find an opponent who is also not a competitive Scrabble-ese using player. I think the idea of time limits per turn is also an enjoyment enhancer. I too was surprised by the amount of Scrabble antipathy expressed here today. Go figure!

Thanks, AJ and WS for an easy but scrabbly outing.

retired_chemist 3:06 PM  

Easy-medium. Not a Scrabbler (in the last 55 years anyway) but I knew enough to get the theme, which was amusing. Would not have spontaneously noticed EAT ME, PRICK (in the last 55 years, anyway). But it's funny.

Wikipedia seems to confirm =my vague memory that quarks are particularly associated with the protons and neutrons - atomic nucleus. So, ATOM is correct but I was expecting something nuclear.

Enjoyed it. Thanks, Ms. Johnson.

sanfranman59 4:03 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Wed 8:32, 9:40, 0.88, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:03, 6:08, 0.99, 45%, Medium

Z 4:32 PM  

@bewilbered - Who are you quoting? I quickly reread the comments and then did a search - no one said what you quoted nor do any of the comments seem to make the point that you are arguing against.

Lewis 5:07 PM  

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™) solution:


The anagrams were SEAL and ALES, ALES was made into ALEX for Alex Trebek.

Alex, incidentally, just this week got the Guinness record for hosting the most episodes of a program, surpassing Bob Barker. A nice little beer connection there, ALES and Guinness...

There is at least another anagram pair in the puzzle, TOMS and MOST.

wreck 5:25 PM  

Just a note -- I sent feedback on the ipad app update last night to the NYT.
I commented that the app was improved and had just experienced the difference it makes doing it in portrait as opposed to landscape. I actually got a personalized reply from the Director of Games saying they hadn't realized just how many people always did it in landscape mode and had not tried it in portrait.
For me, I have always done it landscape orientation because my ipad case props up that way and is not conducive to standing it on edge for portrait. He did say that (like @Steve mentioned) they are going to work on the landscape UI on the next release!

OISK 5:58 PM  

Never heard of the one-named singer "Seal," of course. Filled it in last, could that REALLY be the name of a singer? Wasn't absolutely sure I was correct until I got here. Enjoyed the puzzle, just about the right difficulty for a Wednesday, and thought the theme cute, although I also thought (wrongly) that there was more than a single k among the tiles. I thought that "Spazzes" was still considered slang, and not acceptable in Scrabble. Wrong again. If "Tsktsks" is really a word, is it the longest dictionary word with no vowels?

Blue Owl 6:29 PM  

Used to travel all over for Scrabble Clubs and Tourneys. Many were too formal (no talking while playing). I stopped going, because it's cheaper (no transport, toll or tourney fees), and I am now playing a dozen people on computer. It's for lazy people like me, and I can take as long as I like. (don't like time limits). Not talking defeats the purpose. because I like the socializing. Yes, chefwen (Sp ?) I would like to play you. E-mail me, and I'll do the same. I don't memorize lists--find that if you play enough, you remember words. Cheers, all !

bewilbered 7:11 PM  

@Z, your point is well taken. I made free with generalizing air quotes in my post, rather than issuing a caveat on any post in particular.

I would draw a distinction between the *word* being somewhat dated (it does seem to be a bit of a relic from the 80s, as you say) and the "link to the pejorative" being dated. The etymology remains the etymology. Rex reported that some Internet coverage of the word implies that offensiveness is "contextualized." But -- and I'm so going to sound like people who make me sigh -- the user of a term doesn't always get to decide that a context is innocent, or that pejorative associations have utterly dissipated. I'm principally disagreeing with the Internet then, not with anybody here.

Fred Romagnolo 7:56 PM  

SPAZZES was pejorative, is pejorative, and will always be pejorative. It was mostly used by 13 yr olds to refer to somebody who was less than elegant. What's next, 4 eyes, crip?

Fred Romagnolo 7:56 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefbea 8:29 PM  

I don't understand??? Just went to Runtpuz.org and got some weird pictures of sexy naked women!!! I thought M&A and Loren had some puzzles we were supposed to figure out. What is this all about????

Z 8:41 PM  

@bewilbered - thanks for the explanation.

@chefbea - I'm guessing a typo, I had no problems.

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:36, 6:04, 1.09, 83%, Challenging
Tue 7:54, 8:46, 0.90, 20%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:35, 9:40, 0.89, 25%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:26, 3:55, 1.13, 91%, Challenging
Tue 5:07, 5:21, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:46, 6:08, 0.94, 34%, Easy-Medium

600 10:47 PM  

@Anne Meiloff--Yes. My clue said Scarlettu's suitor. I thought it was some strange anime creature or something and didn't believe RHETT till the crosses proved it. AcrossLite typo, I guess.

Charles Flaster 11:02 PM  

Easy finish. Loved jujitsu clue.TskTsk was also right on.
BOGGLE IS A MUCH MORE CHALLENGING GAME THAN SCRABBLE.
Maybe there is a Boggle-themed puzzle out there.????

spacecraft 11:15 AM  

The thing about tournament Scrabble--the ONLY setting which accepts SPAZZES--that I don't like is the extreme defensive posture the game takes. God forbid you should ever open the board up! OTOH, I enjoy playing it at home, where winning is not so important as to ruin the game.

This one was kind of fun, with all the, heh heh, scrabbly letters. The constructor did a great job with those crosses, IMO.

Now we come to the poorest choice yet for OFL's WOD: SEAL. This is a perfectly good word, yet for some unfathomable reason they have chosen to pop-culturize the clue. Why? Is pop culture a thing to be coveted??? I mean, there are plenty of cases where an entry HAS to be clued that way; that's bad enough. Why in the world do it when you don't have to?

964: here's a case where baccarat rules give me my fourth 9 in a row (!), but numerology gets me...baccarat (that means zero). I will accpet the score assigned me by my peers.

The Fullers 12:41 PM  

On first glance the points make sense. But remember that a blank tile gets zero points. So, for example, the points shown for xeroxes is high by 20 points.

DMG 3:49 PM  

Enjoy Scrabble and liked this one. Just couldn't figure out how those high scores were achieved until someone here reminded me of the 7 letter bonus. Guess I don't get one that many times. Put in SEAL as it seemed the only thing that would fit, but seem to connect the.name within a Bobby SEAL who was part of some kind of protest movement???

Dont knock Scrabble. I spend a lot of time alone, and have found on-line Scrabble a better way of passing time than,say, TV, particularly since aging eyes limit the amount of time I can spend reading.

Finished the puzzle, and my hand is 595! Suppose Thursday will bite me as it usually does.

Dirigonzo 5:07 PM  

I miss reading @ACM's reaction to this puzzle which I can only imagine was one of pure joy. That is all.

1817 so either 7 or 8? Who do we call for a ruling?

Solving in Seattle 5:26 PM  

I don't play scrabble, but I don't think people who do are SPAZZES.

Nice Wednesday puz, Amy.

765, which I think gives me either an 8 or a nine. Who can clear this up?

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