Esquire in Henry VI Part 2 / SUN 5-9-10 / Pilfer old-style / Jazz vibraphonist Jackson / Primitive percussion instrument / Midnight Poison maker

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "MS. CONCEPTIONS" — theme answers are various inventions by women, with the theme revealed in the answer MOTHERS OF INVENTION (104A: Rock group whose name is an appropriate alternative title for this puzzle); circles in grid spell out "bonus message": "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY"

Word of the Day: Alexander IDEN (72D: Esquire in "Henry VI, Part 2") —

"Kentish gentleman" who is in exactly two scenes in "Henry VI, Part 2" — IV.x, V.i
• • •
As I was solving this, I was sure the puzzle would somehow end up celebrating the 50th anniversary of the birth control pill (which, if some new PBS show with Jon Meacham and that lady who used to be on MTV isn't lying, is also today). So many inventions ... I thought it was just a matter of time before I hit BIRTH CONTROL PILL. But no — it's MOTHER'S DAY, and that's the theme. My favorite part of the puzzle is the use of Frank Zappa's band as the theme-revealer. My least favorite part is (dramatic pause) the circles. I nominate this puzzle for "most ridiculous use of circles ever" — do you have any idea how many "bonus messages" you could derive from this grid. I found one that involves the word MOTHER in a *completely* different context, for instance. A not-suitable-for-Mother's-Day context. I'm just saying. I think you should all just create your own "bonus messages." How about "YOUR BRA IS MAKING ME HORNY." That's in there. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Programming tool created by Grace Hopper (1906-92) (COBOL COMPUTER LANGUAGE)
  • 29A: Item of apparel created by Mary Phelps Jacob (1891-1970) (THE MODERN BRASSIERE) — as opposed to the pre-modern brassiere, which was a pair of coconut shells, and the post-modern brassiere, which is merely theoretical
  • 50A: Medical discovery of Gertrude Elion (1918-99) (DRUG FOR LEUKEMIA)
  • 64A: Woodworking tool created by Tabitha Babbitt (1784-1853) (CIRCULAR SAW)
  • 71A: Office item created by Bette Nesmith Graham (1924-80) (LIQUID PAPER)
  • 88A: Driving convenience created by Mary Anderson (1866-1953) (WINDSHIELD WIPER)
  • 117A: Food formula created by Ruth Wakefield (1903-77) (TOLLHOUSE COOKIE RECIPE)
There was more yucky stuff than I like to see on a Sunday, especially in a not-terribly-demanding grid. Guessed at ANZIO (6A: W.W. II beachhead south of Rome) / NIM (7D: Pilfer, old-style) crossing. ANZIO felt familiar, but NIM, no no no. I think I only just learned that it's some kind of game. Never ever heard of this [Pilfer, old-style] nonsense. Guessed again at IDEN / ANDANTINO (94A: Slightly faster than moderately slow), the latter being a musical term I've never seen and the former a character I, and most of the world, have never heard of. Two scenes. In a play no one reads any more. Man oh man. IDEN! Taking obscurity to new levels. ANDANTINO looks common by comparison. Don't like IMARI (more obscure crosswordese) (19A: Japanese porcelain), but remembered it today, somehow. Big problem is the lower middle of the grid — south of LIQUID PAPER and north of MOTHERS OF INVENTION. There's a cavalcade of crud in there: IDEN, IT IN, INSO, NO IF (!?!!), RLS, IMRE ... it hurts. On the plus side, super happy to see the very important artist LEGER (17D: "La Grande Parade" artist Fernand) in the puzzle. Not sure why I don't see him more often — his name seems grid-friendly enough.

Will must want mothers to feel good about their solving skills today, because man oh man this puzzle was easy. The easiest puzzle I've done in ages. I was done in under 10 — a shade over 9:30, in fact. Slowed a bit at IDEN and NO IF, and oh so slightly in the SILEX (126A: Proctor ___ (small appliance brand)) / MILT (114D: Jazz vibraphonist Jackson) region (at the very end), but other than that — straight shot to victory


  • 41A: Active Japanese volcano (ASO) — Never even saw the clue, thank god. As I believe I've said before: APO I know, ASO ... I might have heard of before, but it just isn't sticking yet.
  • 10D: Frolickers by a stream (OTTERS) — this may be the first time in my life I've ever beheld the word "frolickers." I kind of like it. My first encounter with the word "frolic" was likely in the lyrics to "Puff the Magic Dragon":

  • 38D: Primitive percussion instrument (GOURD)Very primitive. Also edible.
  • 51D: Donate, to Burns (GIE) — I was like "hmm, what would Mr. Burns say instead of 'donate'?" — he's prone to saying olde-timey things, e.g. asking the gas station attendant to fill his car up with petroleum distillate and revulcanize his tires, post haste! Alas, wrong Burns.
  • 73D: "Eris ___ sum" ("You will be what I am") ("QUOD") — if you google this phrase, this is your first hit (wikipedia!):
"Eris Quod Sum" is the seventh episode of the third season of the NBC science fiction drama series Heroes and forty-first episode overall. The episode aired on October 27, 2008. "Eram quod es, eris quod sum" is a Latin phrase that is often found on gravestones and translates as "I was what you are, you will be what I am".
  • 102D: Midnight Poison maker (DIOR) — ooh, I did not know this, though I should have guessed, with that name, it would have to be a fragrance. I was going to ask "Isn't there already a fragrance named 'Poison'?" but it turns out that's the DIOR original. Midnight is some kind of spin-off.
And now your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse...
  • @KristerR Hello, weekend! What's this? A cheap bottle of wine and a crossword puzzle? Be still my heart!
  • @angefitzpatrick glories in the completion of 92% of the NYT crossword in just one day!
  • @PHook4000 Folded my crossword perfectly today!
  • @camillececilia Note to self: doing NY Times crossword puzzles on my iPhone is murder on the battery.
  • @thatpuzzleguy Round of applause for Timothy Parker, who today ran his 1,000th puzzle with animal similes as its theme!
  • @BrentPiaskoski Seriously, if kids can bring coloring books to church, is it so wrong to bring the crossword puzzle?
  • @barben2 Just had brunch with David Bowie. He was surprisingly good with the NY Times crossword but his eye with the enlarged pupil was distracting.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Noam D. Elkies 1:03 AM  

It's the theme answers that are the inventions, not their mothers who are named in the clues.

I figured out the circles early enough to get some free letters in random places in the grid, but yes this Sunday puzzle was easy enough that they were hardly necessary.

If you're going to have 6A:ANZIO and 15A:STLO in the same puzzle then it's nice to have them in the same neighborhood. I'd have thought that New 1A:PALTZ would be less familiar to non-New Yorkers than Anzio. Yes, 7D:NIM is a game with a surprisingly pretty mathematical solution, but I've also run across the old "pilfer" meaning in The Beggar's Opera (Google supplies the quote, "I expect the gentleman about this snuffbox, that Filch nimmed two nights ago in the park..."). I read somewhere it's cognate with German nehmen "to take".

Some nice 9- and 10-letter non-theme answers and clues (20A:GIANTPANDA etc.); nice too to cross 13D:ADA with another computer language. Not so nice to have 31D:OVAL and 105:OVOID in the same puzzle. Maybe it was unovoidable. (And yes the pun is awvul.)

I thought Will Shortz wasn't allowing diseases worse than acne and ague in the grid, so leukemia in 50A was something of a surprise, even if it was in the context of a medical treatment for the disease. The word LEUKEMIA has never appeared in the grid before as far as xwordinfo/Word.aspx remembers.

Hi Mom!

foodie 1:04 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
foodie 1:09 AM  

Blogger foodie said...

Rex, I saw the circles and wondered: What will Rex say? I also had the same thought, that there are many other places to circle and get that message. What I did not expect was: "YOUR BRA IS MAKING ME HORNY." LOL!

I disliked what you disliked in there. But I loved, loved, the celebration of inventive women. Are they all mothers too? Thank you Ms. Gorski for this conception!

jae 1:12 AM  

I had the same thoughts about the circles. Easy-medium for me because of the IDEN/ANDANTINO cross, which I guessed wrong on ("L" vs. "N"), and the PALTZ/TROUTS cross which I needed my east-coast born bride's help with. Other than those areas, pretty easy. I liked this overall for the same reason foodie did.

syndy 1:38 AM  

paltz? trout? i googled whitlings and it said what you get if you whittle so i said "crafts" So not moving! got the rest of the puzzle fine. do you whittle trout? CHERBORD umm raspberry!

The Bard 1:43 AM  

King Henry VI, part II > Act V, scene I

[Enter IDEN, with CADE'S head]

IDEN: If one so rude and of so mean condition
May pass into the presence of a king,
Lo, I present your grace a traitor's head,
The head of Cade, whom I in combat slew.

KING HENRY VI: The head of Cade!
Great God, how just art Thou!
O, let me view his visage, being dead,
That living wrought me such exceeding trouble.
Tell me, my friend, art thou the man that slew him?

IDEN: I was, an't like your majesty.

KING HENRY VI: How art thou call'd? and what is thy degree?

IDEN: Alexander Iden, that's my name;
A poor esquire of Kent, that loves his king.

BUCKINGHAM: So please it you, my lord, 'twere not amiss
He were created knight for his good service.

KING HENRY VI: Iden, kneel down.

[He kneels]

Rise up a knight.
We give thee for reward a thousand marks,
And will that thou henceforth attend on us.

IDEN: May Iden live to merit such a bounty.
And never live but true unto his liege!


BANQUO, Thane of Lochaber, a general in the King's army

Anonymous 4:37 AM  

Bette Nesmith Graham was the mother of Michael Nesmith, of 60's TV "The Monkees".

CoolPapaD 4:59 AM  

Loved this brilliant creation, and, because of the free letters that @NDE mentioned, I loved the circles! You can also find "Rex, be nice to Ms Gorski" in the grid.

Any puzzle tied together by a Zappa reference totally rocks. The conception/ova motif is so appropriate for this day, on which we celebrate those modern brassiere-wearing mothers who made us Toll house cookies when we were growing up!

Bob Kerfuffle 6:11 AM  

@Noam D. Elkies has already mentioned the cross of 23 A with 13 D, ADA. But he did not point out that ADA is named for a real person, ADA Lovelace, who, among many other things, was also a mother and deserving of greater prominence in this puzzle.

Otherwise, note the shout-out to our female parent at 78 D.

And for all who have been troubled or amused by the use of ANO to stand for a Spanish year, apparently it is possible to get a TILDE into the grid: 106 D.

Happy Mother's Day to all to whom it applies -- the world would be a lonely place without you.

HudsonHawk 6:14 AM  

OK puzzle, with MOTHERS OF INVENTION as a very nice payoff.

But those four neighboring downs of LALA, IDEN, QUOD, ULNA are just hideous. Especially with the ANDANTINO cross. And I have to agree with Rex about the circles.

imsdave 7:19 AM  


Hard for me to hate a puzzle with COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language) in it. Nice shout out to us dinosaurs. Of course I then did the LAT and got slapped in the face (enough about that).

Easy, as stated, but enjoyable.

Happy Mother's Day

LGW 7:23 AM  

I don't hate the circles--they are, after all, a "bonus message," perhaps arbitrary but inoffensive. And it IS Mother's Day (have a happy one!).

My problem is the NW corner. Brutal. Unless you're a keen fisherman/porcelain aficionado, I guess. "Amos" could have been "Enos", "Bell ___" gave me "bell jars" (I mean, come on, Wikipedia defines "Bell Labs" as "the research and development organization of Alcatel-Lucent"), and I have yet to discover any reason why someone not from New York should have heard of the village of New Paltz, population 6,034, even if it does apparently have a minor SUNY. Where is "Old" Paltz, anyway?

Interesting fact turned up by Google, though: New Paltz does appear to have, as probably its best claim to fame, the questionable distinction of being the town where the character of "Penny Johnson" (Cynthia Rhodes) from "Dirty Dancing" went to get an abortion.

David 7:49 AM  

While I also thought this puzzle was easy I had a different error. I didn't know the Cure song so had ANDANTINA/NAIF for my crossing.

edith b 8:17 AM  

This puzzle was like 117A. And eating 15 of them at one sitting. Way too much. Way too rich, and ultimately unsatisfying.

I hate to be a Scrooge on the day designed to honor me - am expecting the obligatory phone call from my daughter at roughly noon - but there you are.

suzy 8:18 AM  

Happy Mothers Day and well done to all those inventors who were not mothers - especially Getrude Elion who was engaged but her husband died. She credited NOT being a mother with being an inventor.

Why am I not surprised to see the brassiere in a Will Shortz crossword.

Last weeks puzzle was much easier.

chefbea 8:37 AM  

What a great, fun, easy, mother's day puzzle!! Favorite clue = preceder of many words!!

And of course toll house cookies.

Happy mother's day to all

dk 9:09 AM  

@chefbea, made pound cake (for mother's day) from the the recent Oxford American's Southern Food Issue. You may enjoy The People of the Cake story, anyway the issue brought you and @elaine (she is a southern belle) to mind.

I hate Sunday puzzles, this one is the exception to the rule. The circles still suck. Amazing mother's day treat. Thank you Liz.

**** (4 Stars) I cannot believe I am giving a Sunday puzzle, with circles no less, 4 stars. I wonder if their is a DRUGFORTHIS :)

Back to rambling.

I am thinking I may have seen the Mother's of Invention at New Paltz, but as I share dinosaurdom with @imsdave this may not compile.

Anon at some ridiculous am hour, try to find the Michael Nesmith show (post Monkees) when he played with Brian Auger and the Trinity.

Speaking of horny brassieres one of the many girls I was afraid to talk to, and worshiped from afar wore a see thru bra (clear plastic-like material) to high school. This created a scandal even thou said bra was beneath a sweater and an oxford style shirt. Not that I remember every little detail as explained to me by some champion (green with envy) of 1967 high school morality. Thanks for the memories Joann B.

Happy Mothers Day to all for whom this applies.

end of line

Cathyat40 9:14 AM  

Had AlcANTINO for ANDANTINO; was thinking of a horse's canter; it was late :)

Leslie 9:23 AM  

I was impressed by the list of women's inventions, especially the CIRCULAR SAW. Who knew?

dk 9:29 AM  

@anon aka 3dogmom, the Monkees TV special was titled 33 1/3 revolutions per Monkee. You can find a few clips on youtube (a popular blog link as we learned yesterday).

secret word: bayed - the act of parking ones boat in an inlet (ship if a boat will fit on it).

ArtLvr 9:37 AM  

Wonderful puzzle by Liz G., even with the oddities like FRONT-DOORY. I guess the Y was necessary for the EYE watching over us, though clued here as Needle point? (123D, "Auge" in German)

@ Noam, NIM brings to mind the famous German poem "Bitte" (Request, or Prayer) by Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850), set to music by over two dozen composers. The one I learned was probably one of Schubert's lieder:

Weil' auf mir, du dunkles Auge,
übe deine ganze Macht,
ernste, milde, träumereiche,
unergründlich süße Nacht.
Nimm mit deinem Zauberdunkel
diese Welt von hinnen mir,
daß du über meinem Leben
einsam schwebest für und für.

Stay with me, endarkened vision,
exercise your fullest might,
solemn, gentle, dream-abundant,
bottomlessly precious night.
Let your somber magic's cover
shield me from this earthly shore,
high above my life to hover:
lone for ever, evermore.

Lenau asks the "dark eye" of night to rest on him, to remove the world from him, and to be the lone power over his life for all time to come.

Strangely enough, there is a common word in German (i.e., "umnachtet") whose literal meaning is to be surrounded by night, but whose real meaning is to be mentally ill, to be insane. Not that Lenau wished (or even foresaw) his own fate, but it is a fact that he spent the last years of his life in an insane asylum in Vienna...

I'd thought for years it was a love poem to a dark-eyed beauty, like the Russian song "Dark Eyes".


ArtLvr 9:41 AM  

p.s. Coincidentally, New Paltz is where the current leader of the Sammy Kaye Orchestra lives. He teaches music at the SUNY branch there.


Bob Kerfuffle 9:45 AM  

@ArtLvr -

Typed very gently, and to be read gently - East South East (ESE) is the Needle point with a "?". Nice poem, anyway.

ArtLvr 9:57 AM  

Thanks, Bob -- though very funny!

p.p.s. Also enjoyed seeing the IMARI porcelain, since the first item I ever bought at an auction was an Imari charger (large platter). And the river NEVA brings strong memories too, though St. Petersburg was Leningrad when I was there... Russian friends from those darker days we helped resettle here, proud US citizens for over thirty years now! Happy Mother's Day to all.


Anonymous 10:03 AM  

OVAL and OVOID in the same puzzle!!AGGGHH!!

chefbea 10:21 AM  

Just came back from a good southern breakfast - grits and all. Took a different road back to our house and saw a street we had never seen before....IOTA Lane!!!

PIX 10:28 AM  

RLS (76D) is buried at Apia (35D) the capital of Samoa.

Smitty 10:34 AM  

My ex played bass for the Mothers. Happy Mothers' Day,, Jeff!

Denise Ann 10:46 AM  

One across -- NEW PALTZ, NY!
My home town.

Martin 10:53 AM  

Salmon are normally anadromous, living for several years in the sea and returning to fresh water to spawn. (Eels are catadromous, living in fresh water but returning to one spot -- the Sargasso Sea -- to spawn, from as far away as Japan. Somehow the elvers know how to return to the correct region of lakes. But I digress.)

Trout are very closely related to salmon. Some populations of trout move between freshwater and the ocean, living like salmon. A steelhead is a rainbow trout gone to sea, for instance.

In Europe, a sea-run brown trout is called a sea trout. Bear with me. Some sea trout can't make up their minds and hang around river mouths for a year or two before heading out to deep water. These immature AC/DC trout salmon happen to taste very good, and therefore have people's attention. They are called finnock, pealing or herling in different part of Scotland, and whitling in parts of England and Wales.

"Whitling" is a pretty obscure term. Also, like most fish, "whitling" is the plural since you're talking about one kind. "Whitlings" compounds the suckitude. But they're interesting.

Doug 10:55 AM  

New PALTZ to start off Sunday? Oh well.

Bette Nesmith Graham is also famous for being the mother of Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. He made more cash from her gigantic will than he did in the music biz, I think.

Doug 10:57 AM  

Yep (Wiki)

"Her only son, Michael, inherited half of his mother's $50+ million estate. The remainder financed the Council on Ideas, a think tank devoted to exploring world problems."

b 11:06 AM  

That's it; I'm putting on "We're Only In It For the Money" right now.

joho 11:11 AM  

I think this is a good day to declare Liz Gorski as the mother of invention of complex and original crossword puzzles. This theme is such an unexpected way to honor mothers on their special day showing that women can do a lot more than raise their children (no small task at that.)

Bravo, Liz! And happy Mother's Day to all who are!!

Zeke 11:13 AM  

Apparently, Zoological references define WHITLING as a one year old trout. Since there are many species of trouts, there are many types of WHITLINGS. Still agree with Martin on the suckitude though.

joho 11:13 AM  

That should be brava, Liz!

newspaperguy 11:14 AM  

Any puzzle that starts with the very New York-centric Paltz (a wtf to most) is likely going to be lame. And this one certainly was.

Van55 11:40 AM  

On occasions when I have criticized puzzles for "crap fill" I have been chastised by some who say that, as difficult as building puzzles is, one should expect iffy fill, particularly when the theme is excellent. For me, this is such a puzzle. Loved the theme and the revealer. Didn't mind some "bad" fill as a result.

PALTZ/TROUTS stumped me to the point that I had to get the T in PALTZ from Google.

Happy day to all the mothers out there!

archaeoprof 11:47 AM  

Easy, fun puzzle. MOTHERSOFINVENTION is the best reveal in a very long time!

@Rex: thanks for the Peter, Paul & Mary clip.

Tinbeni 11:52 AM  

Liz: Why not just have a long across be

Nice to know that THE MODERN BRASSIERE was invented by a woman.

And, like with most puzzles, whether they have circles, or not, I found my secret message ... SCOTCH !!!

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

@ almost got me with eye for needle point. thought i had an error with ese. had to check rex.

first wanted craft but then thought that whitling in that sense should be spelled with 2 t's so put in trout.

had to google nim, nadal, uri. all in all this was a typical puzzle for me at my level made a bit easier by the simplistic circular giveaways.

lit.doc 1:26 PM  

DNF, but had a good time not doing so. Terrific, thorny puzzle! When the clock turned red, I was still looking at that block on the west coast with MUGS over WTF over CURE FOR… over ADRIAN over ____AMIAT. On to Rexville.

Quit reading as soon as I spotted DRUG FOR… then quickly got out of court (had 62A ABA) and onto the court, and finished the game.

In addition to the theme’s other virtues, spotting it immediately let me correct 36A LIPS to MUGS (thought momentarily about DUGS, but that would only pass the breakfast test among the unweaned) and 63D KEG to TAP.

That I had 53D ON REDS almost to the end does not speak well of my youth.

SethG 1:48 PM  

GOURD is one of my favorite words. GIE is now one of my least favorite.

Neither Grace Hopper nor Gertrude Elion were mothers children, just of inventions. My mother had no inventions, just children, and for that latter fact I'm grateful. I'll make my obligatory call soon.

Robert Burns 1:58 PM  

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'es us,
An ev'n devotion!

Sunday Puzzle Guy 2:00 PM  

Where is the LA Crossword Confidential blog today?

Ulrich 3:13 PM  

@artlvr: My hat goes up to someone who is able to freely associate "nim" with "nimm" (imperative case of the strong (irregular) verb "nehmen"--to take) and then "nimm" with a poem by Nikolaus Lenau. A few hours ago, I had posted here an unbelievably trenchant dissertation on the affinity between the German Romantics and the night, followed by an equally astute line-by-line critique of the English translation and an argument that rhyming translations are almost always a bad idea. Now I see it's all gone.

Apparently, the powers that be at Google found all of this less funny than Rex's cultural history of the bra and condemned my opus to the cyber abyss--it will be lost forever, sharing its fate with the Poetics of Aristotle (or whatever work of his is lost)--well, I could be in wores--oops worse-- company...

CoolPapaD 3:31 PM  

I wish I had read the first letter to the editor in the Sunday Magazine this morning before doing the puzzle- I wouldn't have had an error in the NW (I had PELTZ / ENOS).

lit.doc 3:56 PM  

@CoolPapaD, really close call on that PELTZ/ENOS cross for me too. Had the corner filled (with ENOS), but INARI just didn't feel right.

Never heard of that brand or type, whichever it is, but after an alphabet run the M made the most Japanese word-form sense to my ear. Tried it and my "books of the OT" synapse finally fired.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

@coolPapaD I had Enos/Inari. Damn! And my paper wasn't delivered today to read that letter. Happy mother's day to your mom

archaeoprof 4:33 PM  

For 102D, "Midnight Poison maker" I first wrote DCON.

@Ulrich: sorry to hear about your lost magnum opus. I bet most people would rather read it than Aristotle.

Martin 4:34 PM  

Imari is not crosswordese. For one thing, crosswordese is not worth anything. For another, crosswordese doesn't have websites. Try, for instance.

Rex Parker 4:59 PM  

IMARI is patently crosswordese. Obviously crosswordese. V-c-v-c-v structure, terminal-I, obscure (compared to 98% of the rest of the grid), foreign, etc. It's textbook.

ERLE Stanley Gardner has a website. What a ridiculous criterion.

You're out of your depth here, Martin. Go back to facts about clams. You're on solid ground there.

rp 5:01 PM  

@Martin -

certainly Crosswordese has a website.

Steve J 5:19 PM  

I must be more cranky than I realize this week (I've actually felt in a pretty good mood all week), because this is the second time in a few days I just haven't warmed to a puzzle that most people seem to like.

While I loved the MOTHERSOFINVENTION payoff, and liked the concept behind the theme, there was too much other clunkiness that made this a bit of a slog. Especially that brutal NW corner.

Of course, I didn't help myself by entering ANZAC instead of ANZIO (not only did I get a beach and a cove mixed up, I was off by one whole world war), and WAYNES World instead of DISNEY World at 28A. And I think at one time or another I tried about every D-Day beach I could think of that had four letters (UTAH, GOLD, JUNO; obviously, none worked).

pezibc 7:45 PM  

Sunk on IDEN - ALDANTINO cross. The L was one of three choices and, as ever, I chose poorly.

"IMARI is patently crosswordese."
As is the case more often than not: For those with no interest or context yes. For others - no, it's not.

foodie 8:00 PM  

In the olden days, when I was in linguistics, I used to be interested in connotations (and associated cultural differences). I think the crosswordese discussion is about connotations. Is it something quite obscure? I'm guessing that is Martin's definition? Or is it stuff that shows up more often in crosswords than in everyday language because it has a certain convenient structure? I'm guessing that's Rex's definition?

I haven't decided how to classify OBAMA-- Not crosswordese but-- crosswordophile?

Glitch 8:42 PM  

Since the current discussion of "crosswordese" is occuring on Ms. Gorski watch today, I find her essay on The Myth of Crosswordese appropriate here.

For those that never bother to click links, here's her definition:

Crosswordese (n.): The specialized vocabulary of puzzlemaking that, according to constructors, appears in puzzles made by other people. When the same vocabulary appears in their own puzzles, it is referred to as "fill" and is therefore justified.

.../Glitch (only the messenger)

Rex Parker 8:46 PM  

With respect, she's exaggerating and she knows it. Constructors (incl. Liz) avoid crosswordese as much as possible, and no one is as hypocritical as she claims. Believe me, xwordese is real, and if constructors didn't restrain themselves, you'd be complaining like mad about the same tired fill everywhere, all the time. You have the luxury of saying it doesn't exist bec. constructors know it *does* and keep it from burying you alive. Every constructor has to use it — it's all a matter of proportion. Everyone knows OBAMA, so he may be a repeater, but he will never be crosswordese (like, say, IMARI).

Martin 9:34 PM  

Constructor-friendly (lots of vowels or esses) and crossword-confined (words that you never see except in puzzles) are unrelated dimensions. Rex includes both in the analysis of crosswordese; I include only the latter. We have different defintions of crosswordese to begin with. As far as I know, there's no official definition so it's again subjective -- you're allowed to be bugged by anything you want.

Vowel pattern and foreign are irrelevant to my crosswordese calculus. (And I don't believe I'm unique in that regard.) That's why ECRU (on the pantyhose package at Target) and IMARI (something I know a bit about) don't make the cut by my definition. But OMOO (has anybody here really read it?) and STRAD (if one comes up in conversation, I would give it the respect of saying the name in full) do.

But there are no absolutes here. I know that Rex knows that and he knows that I use a different definition. We both prefer fill that hasn't appeared before to words in the database 100 times. (Unless it's "whitlings.") I just don't consider the 100-times word necessarily crosswordese.

Glitch 9:44 PM  


I guess today I'm taking exception to the term *xwordese* as applied to IMARI.

I didn't find it the *tired fill* of your comment above, or *(more obscure crosswordese)* of your write up.

It's shown up only about 16 times in as many years, used by many of the *elite* authors, and apparently a topic of interest to more than a few people.

Many *answers* fall into this catagory without being *xwordese* Obscure, perhaps to some, *tired fill* --- not.

I knew it as a word-learned-from-xwords.

By comparison, LISA's count it 57, OREO's 200.

"IDEN, IT IN, INSO, NO IF (!?!!), RLS, IMRE" so stipulated.


OTOH it's your blog ;)

Queequeg 9:51 PM  

I read OMOO.

Nostromo 10:51 PM  

If you buy a copy of Omoo or Typee, when you get home and crack it open you'll find on the first page "Ha ha! (Don't tell anybody, though, because you'll spoil it for the rest of us!)" The rest of the pages are blank. Same deal with Finnegan's Wake and every Henry James novel and the last fifteen volumes of Proust. Nobody reads that stuff because there's literally nothing on the pages. But you get to carry the books around and look all cool and shit.

Tinbeni 10:54 PM  

I read the Liz Gorski artile earlier in the week. Pretty much I am in total agreement.

Today in the LAT was ITER my comment in the other blog:

"Years ago, on the 1972 TV show Banacek, George Peppard's character looks at one of the perps who is doing the NYT Crossword and said "ITER, Roman Road is ITER." I started doing these shortly thereafter and have never forgotten the word."

Like OMOO or YEGG, EDDY and a bunch of others, they come up from time to time. To me they are necessary connectors that hold the puzzle together.

Same is true with Roman Numerals. If there is ONE it is only ONE. The math is easy, fill it in, move on. No need to complain about it, they are "fair game."

mac 11:07 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, although it didn't feel easy to me. I thought of New Paltz immediately, but spelled it wrong (Pfalz) which caused havoc (crosswordese?;-)) in that area.

I also figured "nim" had some connection with nehmen/Dutch: nemen, plus I noticed the oval/ovoid problem. Hi, Noam.

@Artlvr: you made me look! I don't think front doory would have passed.

Thank you Bard, and thank you Martin, for your thoughtful information.

Imari was a gimme to me, I collect (old, small) teapots, and have been told that the few Imari pieces I have are more valuable now because the Japanese are buying back the Imari porcelain they exported to Europe.

I just came back from a lovely Mothers' Day dinner with my son! Hope all you mothers had a good day.

foodie 11:14 PM  

@Martin, I like your definition of the two subtypes better than my idea of two connotations-- a useful distinction. But I think these two notions of crosswordese, and whatever other definitions are floating out there, all refer to the following experience on the part of the solver: one of the ways one improves at solving puzzles is by bringing a whole vocabulary to the foreground of one's thinking-- whether it is previously unknown words, or words that occur a great deal more in crosswords than they would in everyday life. That unusual vocabulary that every competent crossword solver needs to possess is...

The way I read Liz's essay (thank you @Glitch for the link) is that she wants us to embrace it as part of the process-- the versatile egg that binds the various flavors. Understood. But I'm totally with Rex that it would be way easier to construct entire puzzles filled with OMOO intersecting with OTTO, while ARIAS, AROMAS and ODORS fill the air. That would suck the joy out of life, and the best constructors seem to avoid it.

@Nostromo, LOL. It's a comforting thought : ) I did read Proust at one point in my life. Remembering it is another matter-- oh wait, did he have something to say about memory?

raidodaze 3:31 AM  

Speaking of fish..." and Marcel Proust "ad an "addock!"...

captcha is NOLUCKWA. Isnt that a lake near NEW PALTZ???

dls 12:21 AM  

Hey, shouldn't the clue for TILDE be "What appears above a pinata?" rather than "What appears above a piñata?"

Anonymous 5:50 PM  

Bad Clue: A magnetic compass's needle never points ESE, it always points magnetic North.

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