Cow with a drawn-out look — SATURDAY, Sep. 12 2009 — 2560 roods / Fictional apiarist Jackson / Pet that hisses when frightened / Yuletide trio

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Constructor: Barry C. Silk

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

Word of the Day: SCRAG (29A: Skinny type)n.

  1. A bony or scrawny person or animal.
  2. A piece of lean or bony meat, especially a neck of mutton.
  3. Slang. The human neck.
tr.v. Slang., scragged, scrag·ging, scrags.

To wring the neck of; strangle.

[Perhaps from dialectal crag, neck, from Middle English cragge, from Middle Dutch crāghe, throat.]


The main trouble I had here was getting out of the damned BOX, so to speak. Had BASEST and ULEE (5D: Fictional apiarist Jackson) and RFD (6D: Old postal abbr.) and TOO and ESTEE (19A: Name on a bottle of Emerald Dream) and STES and was still just staring at the remaining two long Acrosses wondering what the hell was going on. Of course my mind was trying to make one word out of the hissing BOX TURTLE (1A: Pet that hisses when frightened), while simultaneously trying to make an animal out of the "Cow" in 17A: Cow with a drawn-out look (stare down) ("Cow" is a verb). Uncovering that "X" in the NW was what finally finished off that corner and propelled me out toward the center of the puzzle, where I figured I would just drop that central 15 down no problem. But no. I put in LOW EXPECTATIONS (it fits, and has an "X," so it felt very plausible as a Saturday answer). Thank god for the gimme MCAN (28A: Big name in footwear) — crosswordese saves the day. Between it and GIVER (18A: Unselfish sort), I was able to get INVOICED (12D: Billed). The NE went down from there, spilling out into the center of the grid, allowing me finally to change LOW EXPECTATIONS to the much prettier LOW HANGING FRUIT. Also allowed me (with a bit more hacking) to back into AIR QUALITY INDEX (31A: 0-to-500 scale that goes from least to most hazardous). Not sure why it's OK to have AIR QUALITY INDEX and AIR-COOLED in the same grid (55A: Like many motorcycle engines), but I do know that I didn't notice until I was preparing to write up the puzzle, so I can't complain too loudly. Bottom half of puzzle felt much easier than the top half, but that likely had something to do with the toeholds provided by those crossing 15s.

Many minor missteps throughout. I think I actually tried BUSTED for 3D: Bluer than blue (X-rated), thinking "blue" meant "sad" ("blue" = pornographic). I paused for a few moments at the far NE square. I knew it had to be an "S" to complete EVILS (10A: Sermon subject), but SARDONYX!? (14D: Cameo stone). That was hard to take. Sounded like some hipster band name. "Because we're sardonic [flips hair back, puffs cigarette, sips latte] ... get it?" I flirted with HARD ONYX, but decided EVIL H was absolutely ridiculous and left the "S" there. Never heard of a SCRAG. Sounds really pejorative and possibly prostitution- (SKANK?) or drug- (SCAG?) related. That "R" was an educated guess, as I had never heard of BORA (23D: Adriatic wind) beyond its role as half of an island name. Took some hacking to get "RIVER RAT" (33D: Tommy Lee Jones film set along the Mississippi, with "The"). Had to change CRAMP to CRIMP (36A: Hamper) in order for the film name to come into view. Never saw NONA (48D: "Ali" actress Gaye), which tells you something about how easy that corner was for me generally. Despite ALKYDS (43D: Resins used in paints), which thankfully I'd seen before, the SE was a relative cinch with UNITAS (40D: Record-holder for throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games) and FRUIT providing the openings of all those long Acrosses down there.


  • 23A: Nobel-winning chancellor (Brandt) — half-knew this, but as with many half-known things, I don't know why I knew it. Couldn't place BRANDT for you at the moment ... OK, he's Willy Brandt, who was West German chancellor around when Nixon was president, and he won the Peace Prize for improving relations with Communist E. Germany, Poland, and the U.S.S.R.
  • 25A: One of the Bonin Islands, for short (Iwo) — had no idea anyone referred to IWO Jima as just IWO.
  • 26A: The fox in Disney's "The Fox and the Hound" (Tod) — also ["Freaks" director Browning]. A TOD is a (chiefly Scottish) word for "fox." No idea if TOD Browning was a fox or not. He could have looked like one of his FREAKs, for all I know (nice cluing on FREAK by the way — 49A: Extremely unlikely).
  • 50A: Crystal ball alternative (tarot) — ways to tell the future. I think Madame Xanadu (title character of a comic I read) uses both.
  • 29D: 2,560 roods: Abbr. (sq. mi.) — uh ... whatever you say. Never seen the measurement unit "rood" before, that I can remember.
  • 31D: Diversion involving a quotation (acrostic) — and there was much rejoicing among GEEKY (30A: Not at all cool) puzzle types.
  • 32A: Readers of the newspaper Hamshahri (Iranians) — pretty easy educated guess.
  • 39D: Yuletride trio (Hos) — probably my favorite clue/answer of the day. Christmas just isn't Christmas without the HOS.

[So so good ... but why did this come up in a youtube search for "HOS"?]
  • 53D: Letters used in dating (BCE) — Before the Common Era. When I was in grad school, one of my undergrads had to explain "BCE" to me, HA ha. Thankfully, it was in private, in a cafe, not in front of a classroom full of students. I was still using "B.C." and "A.D." — not P.C., apparently. I continue to use "B.C." and "A.D.," though, as this allows me to make myself clearly and concisely understood, which is all I really care about if I'm lecturing. My students seem to understand that by using those terms I am not asserting the divinity of the Lord Christ, Our Savior. Just marking points in time using conventional language.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Crossword constructor Caleb Madison is teaching a class on crossword construction for JASA (a continuing education program), and the open house is this Sunday at John Jay College.

Here's the info:

Sunday, September 13th. 11-2
John Jay College
899 10th ave. (btw. 58th and 59th st.) in NYC

Here's the website:

Caleb is young, dynamic, funny, and ridiculously nice. I heartily endorse this product.


Jeffrey 8:54 AM  

Very good puzzle, even better than YEST. Start, stop, start, struggle, sweat, swear, solve.

I was hoping to see a picture of a STAREDOWN cow.

I was thinking about noses for billed. Some accountant I am.

Don't like HUGEST but that U led to UNITAS and opened the SE, so I'll take it.

nanpilla 9:02 AM  

This was medium-hard for me. The NW was the last to fall for all the reasons given by Rex. Had CREVASSES first,along with CDC for NBA (which is dumb, because centers is in the clue), which slowed down the SE for a while.
Loved TUMBLE DRY, HIGH ROAD, SIRNOSIR, and of course BOX TURTLE, once I finally figured it out. Embarrassing how long it took me to get ACROSTIC, since I love doing that on Sundays. Did not like YEST and TIE A.
Overall a great puzzle with lots to chew on, but gettable in the end. Not as smooth as Silk for me as usual - had more nap today.

Leslie 9:04 AM  

Crosscan, yes--I so wanted there to be a long, skinny cow up in the NW.

I really liked TUMBLE DRY.

Like Rex, I was thinking "Hard onyx?" Do preachers preach about the "Evil H?" What would that be, heroin? Oh, surely not . . ."

PlantieBea 9:19 AM  

A medium Saturday for me and another fun (not so smooth but fun) Silk adventure. I solved this last night with my husband who gave me UNITAS. The NW was the last corner to fall because hubby was convinced the spitter would be a TARANTULA. I wouldn't budge with TOO, though, so BOX TURTLE, X RATED came through in the end. Favorite answers were SIR NO SIR, TUMBLE DRY and favorite clues were for STARE DOWN. Like Rex, I tried hard to find a cow (animal) to fit.

@chefwen: had the best fish fry (pan fried lake perch) last night at The Mill, where the fish are truly local and fresh. Back to the semi-tropics today.

duaneu 9:20 AM  

I must be improving. This was one of the few times I've ever completed a Saturday puzzle without Googling anything.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:37 AM  

Thank you, Barry Silk, for another fine Saturday puzzle, and thank you, Rex, for a fine analysis.

My last letter entered was the O at the cross of VOIR and IONIA, because I don't know much French, but it wasn't a difficult choice.

I was a trifle uncomfortable with HUGEST = Most important, but when I think of it as slang, it's just right.

Leslie 9:38 AM  

Forgot to say: My first thought for 1 Across was "cockroach," as in "hissing cockroach." There's a nearby pet store that sells those, as well as tarantulas, snakes, hermit crabs, etc., as exotic pets. So glad that wasn't the answer.

Campesite 9:48 AM  

Just spent the last half-hour watching Flight of the Conchords clips.
Great (smooth as...) puzzle. Lots of aha moments, scrabbly consonant runs and unusual entries. Lovely.

imsdave 9:53 AM  

Should have been a medium, but I ramped it up to a medium+ by being initially challenged. COD for RFD and NFL for NBA.

A great way to spend a half hour on a rainy Saturday morning.

Excellent work Mr. Silk - thanks.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

BCE should be "Before the COMMON Era." Oppose CE. (But you would be banned from Conservapedia for using such blasphemy as CE and BCE there...)

Stan 10:35 AM  

Quite sure of myself in the SE, I put in TWO-STROKE for 55A confirmed by CRANKS at 42D. Resulted in an inky mess when I finally accepted that this was just not working.

What others said about the coolness of BOX TURTLE, LOW HANGING FRUIT, and TUMBLE DRY. Good one Mr. Silk!

slypett 10:36 AM  

Can't complain, esp. after yesterday's debacle. I really despaired after the first pass with almost nothing in. I thought the clues were too hard because obscure,
but turned out they were just ingenious. Turned out to be one of my faster Saturdays.

But whatever happened to RFD?

bigredanalyst 10:49 AM  

@Rex -- BORA is a gimme for many sports car lovers, it is the name of a classic Masserati.

The names of other winds have also been co-opted by auto manufacturers -- e.g., Mistral, Sirocco, Zephyr.

HudsonHawk 10:52 AM  

Another good "wavelength" day, so this was Easy-Medium for me. I thought about Marino and Warner before UNITAS, but SIR NO SIR gave it away. Didn't mind the double AIRs, because they were COOL looking in the grid.

Loved the clues for STARE DOWN and NEEDLE. Great puzzle, Mr. Silk.

fiddleneck 10:53 AM  

Sard onyx would have been crosswordese back in the day.

Leslie 10:58 AM  

@XMAN, apparently there was just a name change. The service still exists; the postal workers are called rural letter carriers. The service difference used to be more noticeable, in that they delivered mail to boxes on the roadside, addressed to "Rte. X, Box Y."

Lots of suburban subdivisions now use the "box on the street" rather than "mailbox by the front door" method. And after 9/11, everybody had to convert to a "street name and number" address.

@bigredanalyst: I need more coffee. I was looking at your handle, thinking "What's a gred? And s/he's got two of them?"

Three and out.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 11:02 AM  

Cruised through it starting in the SE working my way up to the NE. Guessing ARAFAT instead of BRANDT slowed me down somewhat. BOX TURTLE, dunno where I pulled that one from.

Only beef (but it's a big one) was the overabundance of tired crossword entries in this grid: IONIA, ESTEE, STES, IWO, MCAN, RAVI, (any letter)-STAR, ULEE, and to a lesser extent: NIELS, ONE, TAROT, INANE, RFD. Now, on one hand, most of the long stuff was nice (NW corner for sure, the 15s, etc.), but at what cost? This one just seemed cranked out where as Caleb's puzzle from yesterday felt crafted. Just sayin'.

The Corgi of Mystery 11:14 AM  

Is anyone else surprised that this is the first time in the Shortz era that GDP has been used in a puzzle? Not often you get to debut a 3-letter abbreviation, and (to my mind) a relatively decent one at that.

Anonymous 11:28 AM  

This was just about my fastest-ever Saturday solve. Probably the combination of a significant level of crossword-ese (see BEQ's enumeration) with a happy conjunction of my mind-set with Barry Silk's. I was looking for a literature-quoting road detour sign for the "diversion" in 31D; that and the hyper-respectful repetition of SIR at 47A made the WSW quadrant the last to fall.

foodie 11:32 AM  

I really liked that LOW HANGING FRUIT is vertical with the FRUIT hanging way down in the puzzle.

I hummed along, but the NW killed me and I had to cheat to get BOX TURTLE, even though I had APRIL FOOL and several verticals. I had no idea of this meaning of blue. I wonder where it comes from? STARE DOWN is very trickily clued, and I too wanted the Current Source of Problems to be related to electricity.

So, on the easy side everywhere but the extreme NW which was impossible without cheating.

Susan 11:45 AM  

I had trouble in the NW, too. I googled Tod the fox to get out of it. Shame! Am also embarrassed at how long I sat there staring at the clue for UNITAS and not figuring it out.

Ah Flight of the Conchords. "You're so beautiful, you could be an air hostess in the sixties" is one of my favorite compliments.

fikink 11:57 AM  

@nanpilla, "had more nap" - nice! I was thinking of the wale in corduroy.

@Leslie, remind me to avoid that pet store near you - heebyjeebies!

@Hudson Hawk, I wanted MARINO, too - didn't Peyton Manning just break a long-standing Marino record for touchdown passes, or something?

@BEQ, didn't you just use GDP in a puzzle?

@Rex, I had LOW EXPECTATIONS right off, too and hung (heh, heh) onto it for a while. In my muddled head, LOW HANGING FRUIT is not a goal but an opportunity.

Overall, enjoyed the puzzle, tho' and loved BOXTURTLE over APRILFOOL - it's a rural thing.

ArtLvr 11:59 AM  

Lots to love in this one, though Cow took the cake!
Spavined didn't fit. The three HOS? Hilarious, as Rex noted.

I liked the GILT, though I usually write gilding or gilded: too many people try to insert a U. And the BCE reminded me of my own introduction to the term, since I heard it as "Before the Christian Error" (from a Bostonian, perhaps)? That'd be non-U too.

RIVER RATs are an upstate NY team with which a neighbor was involved; I never heard of the film. Reading Palms was a likely alternative to TAROT but not as xword-friendly. I'm famiiliar with Rods in measurement, Roods not so much since I prefer to picture of churchly Rood screens.

Happy I'd heard of UNITAS, which saved me frtom trying a "Two-stroke" or whatever engine (I'm not a hog FREAK)... TUMBLE DRY fell easily after AIRCOOLED, because I already had ALKYDS, but the Washers wanted to be O-Rings, not COIN-OP. That cleared up when it occurred to me that even a training bra would not be called a Zero cup.

So much else to enjoy here, from ACROSTIC and SARDONYX to a NEEDLE getting into the Groove. Many thanks to Barry!


Denise 12:00 PM  

This was a challenge for me -- I was using the timed puzzle, and I never was able to submit it. I still don't know where my error was. I loved a lot of it, and really this kind of puzzle is why I do them -- just good hard work & trial/error & AHA!

But, I knew SARDONYX!

Greene 12:36 PM  

I sailed through the NW corner of this puzzle and thought this was going to be an easy Saturday. Knew TOD, ESTEE, ULEE and RFD right off the bat, so it wasn't too difficult to get the long answers through crosses. Like Rex, I came out of the corner with LOW in place, and that's where the trouble began.

8D should have been easy and opened up the rest of the grid, but I stubbornly believed the phrase was LOW LYING FRUIT, which of course is minus 2 letters. This gave me absolute fits and I had to start building again in the SW. Eventually NONFAT confirmed the FRUIT part of the answer, but still couldn't think of HANGING. Argh! Only when I had H--GING did the light finally go on. D'Oh and double D'Oh.

HUGEST always reminds me of Kathy Griffin's shopping trip with Paris Hilton on My Life On the D List. The hugeness begins at about the 5:30 mark.

And finally, I commemorate LIE AWAKE since it so aptly describes my experience last night. Got no sleep at all and ended up working like 8 crossword puzzles. I realize that only takes an hour for some, but it really is a full night's work for the likes of me.

DJG 12:43 PM  

Mr. Silk didn't disappoint. I thought this puzzle was terrific.

I think the three hos accompanied the three magi for part of their journey.

Ulrich 12:48 PM  

Brandt was the gimme that got me started. Unitas came readily to mind, as he--like Marino--was born in Pittsburgh, where I lived for two decades. But none of this helped in conquering the NW, but I'm in good company there, it seems. Not bad for a Saturday, all in all...

Two Ponies 1:05 PM  

So when does the Common Era begin or end? I like being about to date things without getting Biblical but I want to do it properly.
I've never heard of a scrag only scraggly and I'm not sure even that is a word.
A mostly fun puzzle but the very center killed me at the crossing of Brandt, had Arafat, and Bora.
Otherwise a good Saturday from Mr. Silk who never fails to please me.
I toyed with the notion of a hissing tarantula as well for a second. I thought "Geez, aren't big hairy spiders creepy enough? They hiss too?"

atomsforpeace 1:06 PM  

NW mostly blank. Not much going for me. Got LOW HANGING FRUIT from just HA, and it saved the day.

Jim in Chicago 1:16 PM  

@xman I believe we discussed RFD last it appeared and found out that at some point everyone was assigned actual addresses and RFD was eliminated. My sister, who lives on a farm, used to be RFD and now has some ridiculous address like 200589 west 589th St.

@twoponies BCE AND CE break at exactly the same point that BC and AD did. Just more PC. BTW, trivia for the day,, there is no year zero.

Now, STEEPNESS?? Not only is the word ugly, but wouldn't a mountaineer expect this? Avalanche or ice storm, sure, but mountains are pretty much steep by definition.

jae 1:59 PM  

Easy-medium for me. Very enjoyable. The crosswordese BEQ listed helped. I agree with Jim in Chicago on STEEPNESS. Seems forced.

Glitch 2:49 PM  

No problem with STEEPNESS, much like a skier, a mountaineer would classify a slope as Expert, Intermediate, Beginner, or Bunny, based on it's steepness 8-)

Also, first circled "roods" as a typo of "rods", but when SQMI (area) appeared accepted as rods are a linear unit.

Later confirmed 1 sqmi = 640 acres = 2,560 roods = 102,400 sq rods.

Once again, a puzzle has enriched my life no end.


archaeoprof 2:57 PM  

@Duaneu: congratulations! Whenever I get the Saturday puzzle, I cut it out and put it up on the fridge.

SARDONYX had to be right, but looked so wrong.

Loved the clue for 41A.

treedweller 3:03 PM  

Just recently my wife asked me "What does BCE stand for?" I had never even seen/heard it. Now it turns up here and all is clear. I don't really see the point. For awhile, I was trying to make it SWF or GBM or something like that.

My biggest mistake (well, longest) was trying The Fugitive instead of The RIVERRAT (I didn't think it seemed right, but there was a river in it). (any letter)-STAR immediately revealed the error in that.

Nice try on the attempt to Saturday up ULEE. He still sticks out like a sore thumb. Has anyone actually seen that movie? I haven't heard good things about it, but the constant subliminal plug from the puzzle tempts me sometimes.

Another hard puzzle I finished relatively easily. If not for some of my recent crushing defeats, I could almost convince myself I'm getting the hang of this.

Babslesley 3:18 PM  

What is it about the NYT puzzle? My first go-round, all I had was "Brandt" and I figured I wasn't going to get much more. But a little time and perseverance, and voila! I had it (except for "scrag" and a couple of the surrounding words). Now I can get on with my Saturday. Never heard of Saint Julie, unless it's Julie Andrews, which I think is OK.

Jerry 3:28 PM  

Liked SARDONYX, and found this one difficult. I'm relieved to be spared another Teen Week of puzzles this Sept. no offense, but that was boring. But now we're promised another "special" puzzle week (sigh). Probably "Senior Citizen Week" or similar gimmick

Schmidtenor 3:44 PM  

Now this is a puzzle I really enjoyed. When the main challenge is the clever clueing, then I can sit and stare, come back to it after a break, etc, and finally have some of the answers "click". Very satisfying to complete a puzzle in that manner. More puzzles like this please, and fewer that rely on crossing a 16th-century biochemist with an Estonian city-state with a Russian poet, ad nauseum.

edith b 4:32 PM  

I started in the SE, the IRANIANS/RAVI cross allowed me to guess SQMI and AIRQUALITYINDEX from just the I*QU and I was able to work steadily southward.

I am fond of war fiction and SIRNOSIR was a neon for me. I had FRUIT of the long 15 in place and another good guess at 8D gained me entry into the NW where I had all the problems others have outlined but all the short answers in this corner got me to APRILFOOL and its R produced the correct interpretation of blue and BOXTURTLE seemed to fairly jump off the page at me as I never knew turtles were hissers.

The NE was the last section to fall and I had to piece together SARDONYX pretty much letter by letter and IONIA was the last to fall.

I found this one to be a little clunky in comparison to Caleb Madison's effort from yesterday and I agree with BEQ in this respect. I usually enjoy Barry Silk but, aside from LOWHANGINGFRUIT running down the page, he seemed to be just going through the motions today. Relatively speaking, this was better than most but I have come to expect more from Mr Silk. And where was his obligatory sports clue?

Thanks to bigredanalyst for info about car names and European winds. Just the type of thing that will stick in my mind.

tedequity 4:34 PM  

Are there any of you with August birthdays? Sardonyx is an August birthstone, along with peridot, I believe. My mother was born in August and had a sardonyx ring.

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

People have told me I'm a sardonyx SOB

Hobbyist 5:58 PM  

Took me three sittings to finish this and much cud chewing but I remain somewhat cowed by the deftness of Mr. Silk.
I should go by the sobriquet of Elsie or perhaps Ferdinand. Feel so bovine.

SueR 6:00 PM  

Schmidtenor - I totally agree with you. I spent close to an hour staring at this puzzle, filled in maybe 10 squares and gave up and went shopping. I came back, picked up the puzzle again and finished in 10 minutes!

Stan 6:49 PM  

The Sardonics would be a pretty good name for a band, IMO. Too bad I'm so much better at thinking up band names than playing music...

retired_chemist 6:53 PM  

A fine puzzle. Filled with good clues. That and the overall interconnectedness of the grid made this solving experience a treat. Iwas tempted to google several times but did not, and I still finished with a respectable (for me) time.

At 78D, because of the N in AMANAS (27A mistake), I started with ATTAINABLE?????. This did me NO good with crosses of course. Got the SE fairly easily, which made the ????? be FRUIT. WTF! So, after a short period of contemplation, my first epiphany: it's LOW-HANGING FRUIT, you dolt!

@ 14D I had ????OPAL (from IWO).

The SW was the next region to fall. It gave me AIR------- for 31A so tried PORT for the next 4 letters for a while, but eventually got the right answer, which turned OPAL into ONYX @ 14D.

And then AMANAS made 29D A CUP (plausible but wrong). It got offed by RIAL (or RIEL), one of which is IRANIAN (32D) money. And so the center fell.

Finished the NE with a shake of the head for SARDONYX, leaving only the NW. I had brain freeze, punctuated buy more epiphanies: Soon it all came together. And so to the blog to discover I had no mistakes.

Thanks for another good one, Mr. Silk!

jae 8:22 PM  

@Glitch -- My problem with STEEPNESS was with the clue not the word. "Mountaineer's challenge" might have worked better.

@treedweller -- Saw Ulee's Gold when it first came out over 10 years ago. I remember it being pretty good. I just checked and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 94.

mac 8:24 PM  

Great Barry Silk puzzle. Siryessir!
The no version opened up that entire SW section for me.
I had the hardest time with the MRE/BCE area... I also had cramp before crimp (btw Rex, that Middle Dutch craghe has evolved to kraag, which means collar.

My favorite answer today was the three HOS!. As a jewelry designer, I have to say, though, that I have not heard the term "sard onyx" in the last 10 years.

andrea sardonyx michaels 8:25 PM  

you are psychic!
You got that right...just back from Alameda...and it was indeed senior week with the same problems that were inherent in young boy week.
THo the final puzzle was a Sunday-sized killer by young Tyler to balance things a tad...

shame on me! Forgive mich, Ulrich!
And I even know who he is! But it was a step up from my original fill in of BRYANT!

May I change my birthstone from opal to sardonyx?

fikink 8:38 PM  

@Barry Silk, I must agree with Artlvr. "Cow with a drawn-out look" has to be one of the best clues I've seen in a long time!

dk 9:09 PM  

Okay, I spent most of the step twins soccer game thinking it was a batTURTLE and trying to figure what breed of cow it was. I was sure shireDOWN was it.

Put the puzzle down to appear to be a good parent and pick it up a few minutes ago and viola: STAREDOWN (agree with @fifkink great clue) and BOXTUTLE.

Caleb, Lectured at John Jay on behavior profiling some number of years ago - have fun. I scared the daylights out some of my students when I told them the preferred car of serial killers was a VW bug and they all looked around thinking he/she drives one of thooooose.

Hi Andrea!

Crosscan 9:13 PM  

Batturtle, the world's slowest superhero.

Darn, too late again.

HudsonHawk 11:40 PM  

@treedweller, Peter Fonda was nominated for a leading actor Oscar for the role of ULEE. Good movie, great performance.

@edithb, for your obligatory sports clue, all you have to do is find Johnny UNITAS at 40D.

nebraska doug 11:51 PM  

There are many times I come here with a Fri or Sat puzzle only partially finished to find an "easy" rating, which makes think, WTF. But for some reason, when ever there is a Barry Silk puzzle, I always seem to do well. It's been said before, sometimes you are on the same wavelength as the puzzle creator, it seems that Silk puzzles are on my wavelength, I've noticed this too many times now to be a coincidence.

foodie 11:54 PM  

So, Miss Andrea Sardonyx, you didn't share any tales about that tournament! I'm dying to know about who showed up, whether fergus was there, whether Sanfranman has a calculator up his sleeve, who won, how you did... Inquiring minds want to know.

edith b 12:05 AM  

@Hudson Hawk-

D'oh! I was thinking baseball and wrote sports. Either way, I feel pretty darn foolish.

fergus 12:41 AM  

I sent a picture of SFman, Andrea and KarmaSartre to Rex. Quite a few of us were spent after Tyler's finale. (Can't say anything else about it, of course.)

At least I finished this puzzle properly, within my lenient guidelines. Really fine construction. Good missteps were in the SE where I had FLAY for Bring down, and CRANK for Turns way up. Both fine entries, in my opinion, except that they didn't cross.


So, I guess it's left to me to offer more of a summary from Alameda.

It felt like a reunion of sorts, and in fact there was a Reunion of the Class of '49 going on at another part of the HS venue. When I first came upon their gathering, I thought this is even too old for a Crossword crowd. So I shuffled on down to the next building, where I was met by SFman, who ID'ed me by Andrea's description of long hair and a probable baseball cap. Immediate statistical analysis connection, as well as cool San Franciscan (from the midwest) sociability. Then spotted Andrea, and greeted her with delight, but as you can imagine she's more than a social butterfly at this type of event. She quickly pointed out the pluses (KarmaSartre, e.g.) and the great minus (the Green Mantis) and everything was a flurry of greetings and finding a place to sit in this very ordinary cafeteria. Since I haven't mentioned the peculiar weather in Northern California yet, it was a most unusual September day. Morning thunderstorms. (Reminder to self: new wiper blades, since I don't care to drive 17 again with the poor excuse I have.)

After a few niceties, we got cranking on puzzles you all will see on Monday and Tuesday. No comment. But we all had plenty after escaping the execution chamber and entering the breezeway. SFman is more competent than he indicates, by the way, and some folks -- too many -- were departing before I'd gotten even half-way through. I happened to to be sitting across the table from a young Indian girl, a HS Junior from Fremont, who despite obvious anxiety about coming to such an event, showed a lot of poise. I was probably more ill at ease than she when the first sheet of paper was distributed. Anyway, we all soldiered on, and did the Tuesday puzzle like you would all expect. Then it was time for lunch.

(Part Two, later. I'm posting now, since things get lost.)

fergus 1:35 AM  

Part Two

Since it continued to be a gloomy day with respect to the sky, and there was no way we were going to sit on the now wet, instead of parched grass for a reprise of the spellbinding discussion we had last year, we brought our Falafels, or whatever, back to the cafeteria. Much animated discussion, as one might imagine yet not much concerning the puzzles we had just recently done. I got to fooling around with Anagrams and Palindromes with David, who was there last year too, and all that he required was that I change one letter in my name to make everything work. OK. The Indian girl (I wish I could remember her name correctly or how to spell it) had her parents with her, as the perfect chaperones. No intrusion; total support. By and by, the third puzzle was placed upon us. It's not giving anything away, but I had one of those moments where I have no idea what I'm doing -- or even comprehending in any way what or why I'm here ... . Then I finished it all with tons of time to spare.

At tournaments, you can't avoid some peripheral vision. Not noticing that others are raising their hands starkly early, or hearing the deep exhalations of no idea is not possible. The occasional chuckle is always welcome, but you wonder if your own is the same. A pressure-packed environment, even though we know we've tossed a few coins in the bucket for a supposed form of entertainment or release. So much for Wednesday, which I continued to do in green ink on my trusty clipboard, if any of my fans care to note. Wryly.

Now on to Tyler Hinman's Big Sunday Puzzle. He leapt about right before offering as non-descript an introduction as could possibly have shown. I couldn't help asking whether that was a sadistic leap? Once again, quizzical, yet he's not hard to read. The only spoiler I'll give is that because of its size, that puzzle had to presented on two pages. This screwed me up in some neurological way. We had a full hour to complete it, and many were still in their seats when the gong went off. The Indian girl was unbowed, however.

So many nice people, self-selected of course, show up at these events (of which I now count two). There's an amazing flash of brilliance, and even some awe, but I went today for the same rationale for why I do crosswords. I like the finesse and elegance of sophisticated language. And fooling around with the elegance and sophistication.

Statistical report may come from other sources, but Crossword sneaker guy won, SF Chronicle music critic came in second, and Andrea's Scrabble competitor friend came in third. Music critic came in third last year sitting on my left, as did Scrabble competitor today, by chance. Very slim margins apparently, among the top folks.

Your faithful correspondent,


andrea blue michaels 3:56 AM  

Fergus pretty much covered it :)

An Eric won (Maddy), Josh Kosman came in second and a Scrabble pal, Nick Meyer who hadn't competed since an ACPT 14 years ago, came in third to his shock and awe.
(I'm always in shock that there is not more overlap between the two worlds...)

As for where we finished...San FranMan was about 30th and I think I was about 20th out of 60...
(Falling mostly bec I stared at Tyler's puzzle for a good 3 minutes not understanding where to even begin...and the last FOUR minutes with an entire corner blank!)
Many many many boy clues to the point where I had to just channel Tyler in my head to try and figure out where this was coming from.

This is an unpublished puzzle that I don't believe will be published anywhere soon...
I got my wish to have a full length super hard puzzle (an hour!) to level the playing field a bit...but, yikes!

Eric Levasseur who normally comes in first or second pulled an Al Sanders and left a square blank...but the nice part about this tournament in its relative shortness, was there was no three person playoff, everyone got to do all four puzzles.

Sadly it is no Puzzlalollapuzzoola nor Morgan Hill with its energy and kids and workshops and Sudoku...
(the organizer of that, Emily Shem-Tov, showed up with her adorable 2 yr old...)
and Elissa Grossman flew all the way in from LA to share tips and pick up new ones...but I'm guessing no one has rivaled Ryan and Brian's level of hilarity for the one-day-ers.

Just a cafeteria in Alameda, on a bleak Saturday...but a super good cause (getting a dictionary in the hands of every third grader in California) and very genial folks.

All I can say puzzlewise is I will be screaming my head off on this blog come Wednesday!

Back to today's puzzle: LOWHANGINGFRUIT sounds dirty to me, in a blue sort of way.
speaking of which
Blue in this context I only know from my comedy days... in nightclubs to "work blue" means to have dirty jokes...
not to be confused with "to talk a blue streak" which is about speaking too much...
(something I know nothing about!)

So, don't know where it comes from originally, you'd think it would be red, as in red light district, etc.
Perhaps blue laws might be related (the Puritan moral laws about not selling liquor on the Sabbath, etc.)?
But blue has so many different shades of meaning. There's a puzzle in here somewhere!

kathy d. 4:36 AM  

Also, kittens can be hissing pets. Scare or corner one and it'll put its back and tail fur up, hiss and jump sideways or backwards.
Kept trying to find a cat or kitten type.
Also, there is a "hissing" lizard, saw one once in a friends' bathroom sitting on top of the toilet; it hissed at me. It was their pet, along with a monitor lizard and others of that ilk.

Enjoyed this puzzle, had to google.

Kukstis 5:15 PM  

FYI about the crossword construction course mentioned-- it's only for adults 55 and older. I got all excited, and then...

PuzzleGirl 9:04 PM  

I finished 3/4 of this puzzle and knew I was about to completely obliterate my personal Saturday record. And then ... I didn't. It took me twice as long to finish the SE corner as it did to finish the rest of the puzzle. I had PUT ON HOLD for TUMBLE DRY and KICK START for AIR-COOLED. I was willing to give them up one at a time, but it wasn't until I tore them both out that I was able to finish. Loved the puzzle. SIR NO SIR is an awesome answer.

Waxy in Montreal 5:39 PM  

Great puzzle. Thank you, Barry C. Silk. Like several people 5 weeks back, I must be on the same wavelength as the constructor as the puzzle seemed extremely difficult to begin but eventually yielded (following much staredown) without any Googling - usually a Saturday must. A personal Natick for me, though, was the SW corner cross between ACROSTIC and C-STAR, neither term familiar to me.

Chelan 3:24 AM  

We had sardonyx as an August birthstone answer at Pub Quiz a few weeks ago. See, you really can learn useful stuff in a bar!

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