Grass for cordage / WED 6-4-14 / Stick-up man on Wire / Thriller singer in tabloids / Mark who won 1998 Masters / Full house indicator

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Constructor: Jim Hilger

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Word Game — circles spell out this phrase, and all theme clues read [See circled letters]

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: ESPARTO (4D: Grass for cordage) —
A tough, wiry grass (Stipa tenacissima) of northern Africa, yielding a fiber used in making paper and as cordage.

[Spanish, from Latin spartum, from Greek sparton, rope.]

Read more:
• • •

This was not that enjoyable, and I felt that way before I ever even saw the theme. That is one of the worst opening (NW) corners I've done in a while. Just groan-some. Slapped by plural TSKS and then punched by HAEC (!) and then bored by EWER and then you have to take the ESPARTO train to REMOP town? Disastrous. Fill improved somewhat after that, but not much. The theme was … just a bunch of word games, at least two of which (PROBE, JOTTO) I didn't know were word games, and one of which (GHOST) I know to be a word game but could not tell you the first thing about. Throw in  an awkward partial (BEG TO) and the predictable RRN™ (MMVI), and I was just happy to be done with this one. There was some decent fill here and there (SHAME ON ME, SPANGLY, CATDOM (!?)), but it couldn't bring the enjoyment meter back to neutral.

Seems like the puzzle should've been harder than it was, given that none of the theme answers had clues, or rather than you had to solve a good chunk of the puzzle to see what their clue was—that, or infer the circled letters based on having put together any number of the theme answers through crosses alone. Most of the non-theme stuff must have been clued fairly easily. Weird to have BANANA running through ANAGRAMS since BANANAGRAMS is a word game I have not only heard of, but have played (my family won't play with me any more—turns out people who solve crosswords all the time are pretty good at BANANAGRAMS).

Gotta go put my eight hours of glorious sleep to good use now. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jberg 7:17 AM  

What, I'm first? Guess Rex posted late.

jberg 7:21 AM  

Anyway, I'm with @Rex, right down to which word games I didn't know were word games. REMOP??? Not even clued correctly -- it's not REMOPping unless you are tending to the same spill a second time. When I was about 12 I used to get paid to mop the floor of my father's drugstore once a week, and he did occasionally insist that I come back and REMOP it because I hadn't got it clean -- but not in those words.

Still, I liked the theme density. And it's my own fault I haven't learned APOLO yet.

dmw 7:30 AM  

Jotto is a great game I used to play many years ago.

B Donohue 7:30 AM  

The cross of ESPArTO & rOOD kept me from finishing. Perhaps ROOD is widely known by regular church-goers.

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

Very unenjoyable puzzle. Gave up on it. For once my opinion of the puzzle is even more scathing than Rex's review.
Really nothing good to say about it.

Mohair Sam 7:31 AM  

Once again we really enjoy a puzzle - excellent medium Wednesday to us - only to find out from Rex why we shouldn't have like it so much. This time we're sticking to our guns. Delightful solve, fill was fine on average, and we are not surprised that we don't know every word game out there (same two as Rex), and learned a little (ESPARTO). Thanks Jim Hilger.

If there is a major flaw in the puzzle it is the failure to include Balderdash - great game and great word.

dk 7:32 AM  

πŸŒ•πŸŒ•πŸŒ• (3 Moons)

Easy peasy except for the cordage found in 4D and the mewling 24D. Seeing all the word games was fun… particularly when completing…. well a word game.

The local woods I guess are tickdom…. I like ticklandia better…..

Have I ever mentioned I would like to feed Garfield to Cathy - two toons that deserve one another.

The IROBOT test is down to 3 numbers. Must have discovered weisnotsobright

OldCarFudd 7:34 AM  

Had fATDOM before CATDOM. Accurate, but unPC.

r.alphbunker 7:40 AM  

I liked the puzzle. The circled letters brought to mind tiles in word games.
@Mohair Sam
Some people might think that RP's review was balderdash. :-)

Bob Kerfuffle 7:46 AM  

Definitely a crunchy puzzle, and I didn't know the same games @Rex didn't know, but no real problems. And I give extra points for the fact that the letters of W O R D G A M E are symmetrically placed in the grid.

Dorothy Biggs 7:54 AM  

Moderately difficult for me, partly because I not only do not know when Super Bowl extra large was, but I don't rightly care. I'm a football fan, but I see no point in keeping track of the number of SBs...speaking of which, I wonder if they had to pay royalties on the use of that name. The NFL is pretty persnickety about that. So the river NEVA and MMVI were a bit of a natick. NExA looked reasonable and 2011 seemed a reasonable time for an extra large SB.

I also had trouble at the CORM AHORA TABOO crossing. CORM?

Agree with jberg above: REMOP is falsely clued. I would only add that while you may mop up a spot and if you didn't do it well you should REMOP it, but when I worked at McD's back in the day, we had to mop and remop the dining room several times a night...spills or not. But each spill gets its own mopping.

And I'll end by imagining what happens when someone with an afro attends a it a big two-do?

Thanks. I'll be here all week...

wreck 7:58 AM  

Medium for me -- the only two word games I knew were SCRABBLE and HANGMAN (and I had guessed HANGTEN for a long time until I sussed WORD GAME). Not great -- but decent overall.

Arlene 8:03 AM  

JOTTO was always one of my favorite word games - you can play with your own paper, or use the formal game pads (do they still make those?) My most interesting JOTTO experience was when I was playing with my daughter, and we both chose the same "secret word." Interesting.
I don't know why knights roam ERRANTLY - anyone care to explain?

Unknown 8:05 AM  

DNF with hubris and impatience. mopuP evolved incompletely to REMuP/ESPARTu. MMiI is clearly not MCMLXVII + XL. Dope slap there. NEVA seems like a better river name than NEiA.

Lots I didn't know, but all were gettable with an ounce more patience. 30 minutes is not a deadline worth dying for, after all. Easy-medium.

AliasZ 8:15 AM  

- ESPARTO sounds Esperanto to me.
- REMOP: Mop again; RE-STUP: Stup again; RE-NO: Deny again.
- ERRANTLY: Why this is specific to knights' roaming, I wouldn't venture a guess.
- Ohno, the one-L APOLO!
- CATDOM is right next door to dogdom and just a hop, skip and a jump away from mousedom.

I never heard of the WORD GAMEs JOTTA, PROBE or GHOST, and was unfamiliar with CORM and ESPARTO. SHAME ON ME. Some of the fill was also on the TRITE side: TSKS, HAEC, KAT, SRO, a random Roman numeral, BEGTO, AVA, ANAT, VADIS, MME, SRO, but otherwise this was a fun and easy puzzle with NARY a hang-up. It took me just a bit longer than yesterday's.

For a change of pace, here is a brief example of Gregorian Chant: Gloria in excelsis DEO with ORGAN accompaniment.

Go Rangers!

Unknown 8:17 AM  

ROOD is a new one for me. It's rare that a word doesn't ring even a teeny tiny bell for me, but that, ESPARTO, and CORM all managed that feat today. Got CORM on the cross but that 'R' intersection caused my first DNF in months. :(

Wood? Hood? They make sense on a guess. Rood? Not so much.

John V 8:30 AM  

SE got me a DNF, crossing random roman numeral with NEVA.

Sir Hillary 8:37 AM  

Today, I'm with @Rex. Nice theme construction, and it's always fun to learn some new games, but the likes of HAEC, REMOP, SAYOK, CORM, BEGTO, MMVI and the Latin duet DEO/VADIS had me groaning throughout.

Oscar 8:39 AM  

Balderdash is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the gaming public. Just get a dictionary, some pencils, and some slips of paper!

JohnnyMao 8:46 AM  

Hmm.. is it the "America" of West Side Story, or the "America" of Simon & Garfunkel?

Turns out it's neither. Please, if you reference a song get the title right.

Glimmerglass 8:49 AM  

HAEC brought back memories of Latin 1 in my youth (HAEC is the nominative feminine singular form of "this"). I'm now trying to learn some Mandarin, and there are no case forms or gender forms or singular/plural forms. (TA means he, she, it, him, her, his, her, its -- depending on context.) Easier in some ways, harder in others. TSKS, HAEC, SAWS all gimmes for me.

Anonymous 8:50 AM  

re: knights errant:

errant-- wandering, especially in search of adventure.

GILL I. 8:50 AM  

Well, I started out really disliking the "see circled letters" and then when I got "it", it brought a Wednesday smile to this face...
Like @wreck I only knew a couple of those games but now I know more of them.
Two things that made me giggle: Seeing HAEC. I hated Latin and my ROOD teacher. I learned how to hold my chin with the palm of my hand while pretending to be engrossed in a book most likely titled "Clamo, Clamatis" and all the while take a much deserved nap without getting caught...Hah!
Then the clue for Recharge ones batteries....RE STUP (hi @Alias Z)
Only real head shaker was 45A. I don't understand EURO as a skeptic prefix...

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Catdom is dumb. Otherwise quite solvable here. Didn't know all the wordgames...but didn't have to. I like seeing hangman...too bad it wasn't vertical.

Mohair Sam 8:53 AM  

Knights errant were Knights who wandered the countryside looking for good deeds to do - what Don Quixote thought he was.

Great fodder for Hollywood for the past century.

@r.alph - thanks for the chuckle.

Moly Shu 8:55 AM  

Agree with the CORM, NEVA, ROOD, ESPARTO detractors, and I'll toss in HAEC. This was Fri/Sat difficult for me, but not as enjoyable.

@AliasZ's 2nd paragraph describes my solve, minus the fun and easy part.

Oh, and hand up for not understanding how ERRANTLY fits the clue, but understanding how REMOP doesn't fit the clue.

Unknown 8:56 AM  

Edinburgh Castle is worth a visit if you go there, but you'll notice that it seems more like a windswept fortress than the home of Scotland's finest family. Indeed, fully 500 years ago, Kings & Queens of Scotland relocated their living quarters a mile down The Royal Mile to the Palace of HolyROODhouse, which is a fine warm home built next to HolyROOD Abbey. That's how I know ROOD. Never came up in religious contexts.

Numinous 9:05 AM  

Surprisingly, I knew ESPARTO straight off. Two thousand years ago, the Roman vigiles used mats made of ESPARTO, to help put out fires. the vigiles were firemen before they became the Roman equivalent of cops. I know this from reading a lot of Lindsey Davis and other early Roman fiction.

I totally blew it on HANGteN. I had no idea there were so many other word games, I just wasn't looking when I finally got the theme. Ergo, a big neque complevit for me.

I finally got out of the hospital yesterday after 26 days. Anyway, I want to thank all the well wishers for their kind thoughts. Y'all really cheered me up.

Lindsay 9:25 AM  

ESPARTO crossing ROOD? Plus CORM? And two (not one, but two!) corners glued together with obscure Latin ("obscure Latin" being redundant in my book). Oy oy oy.

Only theme answers I recognize as word games are SCRABBLE and HANGMAN. And where is Boggle? I used to play endlessly with my mother & grandmother. I think I've mentioned here before that Boggle served as my introduction to crosswordese: My grandmother exclaiming indignantly "Yean! Yean! To bring forth a sheep!" as I glowered in her direction.

Numinous 9:26 AM  

Be thankful for @Rex regardless of what you think of his comments. At least he does comment. He gives us all something to talk about. Something that is seriously lacking on another crossword blog regarding a newspaper on another coast where the comment of the day consists of the oddly related remark and a list of all the clues with their solutions. The commentariat invariably congratulates on a brilliant write up then goes on to tell how they had difficulties solving various clues in one of the regularly easiest crosswords around.

Y'all are lucky to be the witty, clever group you are as well as being lucky to have this forum in which to discuss all the on point and random things that get discussed here. Ergo, we are all lucky to have Our Fearless Curmudgeon to pull us all together.

Lindsay 9:26 AM  

Bring forth a lamb, I meant.

Lewis 9:32 AM  

Yes, too much grid gruel, and yes, still felt good to solve. Haven't seen ERRANT in forever, and learned ESPARTO (couldn't believe it was right).

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™): The answers ADEPT, AMY, DEO, GHOST, ANS, and CGI belong to a group that none of the other answer belong to. Write another word that could join this group.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

Wow - 26 days! I'm glad you are finally home! I meant to comment a few days ago it was good to see you up and about -- I just assumed you had been home for awhile. You make a great point about this blog.

lawprof 9:45 AM  

Managed to guess correctly on two potential naticks: the ESPARTO/ROOD and TABOO/CORM crossings.

Not familiar with ROOD as a word game; but do know about ROOD screens in churches. ESPARTO? CORM? Just not part of my vocabulary (and I'm not sure I'm gonna add them today).

Otherwise, only writeover was NONSkId/NONSLIP.

Hartley70 9:48 AM  

Congrats Numinous on being sprung from the hospital! I imagine you're feeling lucky all around :-) Lucky applies to my solve too because I did some guessing before I ever looked at the circles or got the theme and BINGO! Never heard of corm, O'Meara, esparto or rood but lucky is just as good as smart today. BTW I agree with your comments re Rex. I'm very glad the answer man posts.

Steve J 9:50 AM  

Found this a bit tough, both because I'm unfamiliar with several of the WORD GAMES (I've never heard of PROBE, JOTTO or GHOST), and because there was a lot of awkward fill, some of it crossed awkwardly.

Like @Lindsay, I was expecting to - and a little surprised not to - find Boggle in the grid.

In the end, this was one of those puzzles that was just there and was instantly forgotten. Nothing grabbed me, good or bad.

@Numinous: Glad you're out of the hospital. Hope everything's back in order.

joho 9:52 AM  

I loved that this puzzle had SRO for theme, you couldn't squeeze more in if you tried.

I loved the misdirect clue for GALA ... I'll bet a lot of us quickly wrote in afro, no?

Fun theme with the circled letters so neatly spelling out WORD GAME leading us to find 7, count them, 7 in the grid! I don't know JOTTO but sounds like I should.

@Rex, good catch with BANANA crossing ANAGRAMS ... adds to the theme!

Thanks, Jim Hilger, I enjoyed it!

quilter1 9:58 AM  

IF you have planted iris you have planted CORMs. ROOD is another word for crucifix. ESPARTO was new to me and some of the word games I didn't know but otherwise this was easy-medium for me and what I didn't know I got from crosses. No complaints here.

Anonymous 9:58 AM  

It is ... But it is still archaic, known more through old texts (such as hymn and anthem texts) than from regular churchgoing.
PS how do you get a "handle" on here? I've been following for years but can't figure that part out.

Cheerio 10:07 AM  

I loved this puzzle, for the interesting words. I had an aha moment when I considered that esparto must bear some relationship to espadrille shoes. Also enjoyed learning what "Quo Vadis" is known for. St. Peter/ Nobel prize winning novel / who knew? (not I, though those of you more religiously and cinematically literate than I presumably did know)

chefbea 10:12 AM  

What a great all those word games
Never heard of corm or agora. Have tried 3 times and spell check won't let me type the word for 21 down!!!

jdv 10:23 AM  

Medium. Glad to get out of this one unscathed. NW corner was painful. Didn't pay attention to theme or circles during the solve. Had ENDEAR before ENAMOR.

Carola 10:24 AM  

I really liked this three-level puzzle - a crossword with a WORD GAME theme (spelled out, as @r.alphbunker said, in game-like tiles), of which there are 7 examples. Beyond that, I was totally won over by CATDOM and SPANGLY. I also liked the combination of KEEP HOUSE (with ROOM as its upper story) and REMOP - it's just never ending.

Me, too: ESPARTO was new (first thought was ESPARge - a grass varient of asparagus?); I knew ROOD from visiting churches with rood screens (as well as, I think, from characters swearing "by the Holy Rood" in the medieval-y romances I read as a girl); hoped for Boggle or Botticelli.

captcha: not IROBOT but idrought (not around here anymore, has been raining CATs and dogs).

Slow Motion 10:25 AM  

DNFed due to ESPA-TO/-OOD natick, and I knew that the Bears won SB XX in 1986 when my daughter was born, so I got the RRN and the river.

And now I see that my entire post is written in Rexwordese. SHAMEONME!

Atlantasolver 10:32 AM  

I grew up playing Jotto. Love the game. Haiku. Radii. Khaki. You don't have to buy it, though. Just draw it up on a sheet of paper.

Two Ponies 10:34 AM  

I finally got it but not without some pain and head scratching.
So many things/people I did not know but somehow pulled it off.
I liked learning esparto so that's a good thing.

Fred Smith 10:36 AM  


Yep, Edinburgh Castle is a windswept fortress -- built as a safe refuge from invaders. It's surrounded by steep cliffs on 3 sides and a deep pit spanned by a drawbridge into a sally port on the fourth (entry) side. Great place to visit, though, as the British Royal Family does each summer--albeit at the less drafty digs down the street.

When I visited Edinburgh with wife (a multi-generation American Scot, a family disgrace from having married a Mick) and two young sons, I had some connections that got me into the New Club for an overnight, a venerable (name notwithstanding) establishment on the corner of Prince Street, looking straight up to the Castle in profile.

The clerk at the desk was somewhat taken aback by a motley troop of Americans with backpacks, having the temerity to approach the registration desk. We finally did get a room, with sons relegated to a sleeping dorm in the attic, and stepped out for a late dinner at a recommended restaurant around the corner.

We had an early morning flight out (non-changeable air tickets) to return to the US, and pre-packed our bags for a very early AM exit. Alas, my wife realized that she'd left her purse in the restaurant, which was by then locked and vacant. What to do?

Well, the Innkeeper was on the job. He called the local constabulary, where the restaurant license information was filed, and got the name and home phone of the owner, who in turn called his manager who lived nearby, who then got out of bed -- by now about 1am -- and went to the restaurant to let us in and retrieve the purse/tix. As it turned out, wife and I didn't end up sleeping much that night after this adventure, but did so later, for about six hours over the Atlantic on the way home to Boston.

Anyway, very pleasant memories of that 2-week family trip to Ireland and Scotland with the sons.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

For my response, see circled letters:
Absolutely awful puzzle.

r.alphbunker 10:49 AM  


PPPs are a great idea!

Leapfinger 10:52 AM  

@Rex, EWER so hard to please! Turns out that BANANAGRAMS and Boggle are in Constructor Notes (xwordinfo). Nice multilevel concept, layers like an onion.

Fun comments this a.m.:

@r.alph: Some of us think that Balder is Dashinger

@NCAP: re CORM, those Botany courses finally paid off

@jberg: REMOP a loo bop, she's my Baybee

@Numinous: We'uns is reel glad you made it out of the VAH-Spa, Georgia

@Alias: Ditto Esperanto. Subsequently learned ESPARTO (which didn't come up in aforesaid Botany courses) is used to make Espadrilles.
re CATDOM, am personally holding out for a Reely Big Show, like the HIPPODOM

@joho, yesIdid. Not only afroGALA, but also oweSHY.

Somewhere there's the GHOST of a ninth grade Latin nerd who thought "hick, hike, hock, hyooyus, hyooyus, hyooyus" the funniest declension ever. The Latin textbook ended each lesson with a short section on word derivations of any new vocabulary. Still remember that for 'calcaneus', the example was 're-calci-trant', as for a recalcitrant schoolboy kicking back his heels. Never suspected at the time that those calcanei would have ANAT meaning for me in later years.

More Latin memories with Quo VADIS, a SUPERB movie [with Ustinov, that's essentially a given]. Also, a snippet from a 1960s Readers Digest: Fellow jumps in a taxi, cabbie turns around, asks "Quo VADIS, Mac?"...Manhattan cabbies, so literate.

Mucho remess to REMOP today.

TA for now, no BOO till Hallowe'en.

Notsofast 11:01 AM  

A nice brain-stretch that should have been more fun.

jae 11:03 AM  

Medium for me too.  Never heard of JOTTO, ANAGRAMS, PROBE, or GHOST as WORD GAMES so while I got the theme there was the "OK if you say so" factor.   Fun Wed.  Liked it but @ Rex is right  NW was not g.....

SPArkLY before SPANGLY was my only erasure. 

WOEs: ESPARTO (an obscure African grass), HAEC (Latin no, Spanish si).  NW again. 

And, speaking of late week crosswordese I watched a House Hunters International episode last night on a move to ULAN BATOR.

Leapfinger 11:13 AM  

Better than a move to ALI GATOR, I s'pose.clause on kedgo

Leapfinger 11:20 AM  

hmm, looks like a captcha sneaked on stage.

Fred Romagnolo 11:31 AM  

I didn't know JACKO, CGI, or ONE-hit wonder, so DNF in Northeast. I didn't know a lot of the word games but crosses made the rest of the puzzle work out. Euroskeptics are those citizens of countries in the Eurozone who don't approve of the whole thing. They just did surprisingly well in the elections for the European Parliament. Alexander Nevsky, the subject of a great Eisenstein movie, got his name from winning a great battle at the Neva River, long before St. Petersburg was evened imagined in the mind of Peter I (the Great). In Ancient Rome it was the Patrons who had the Clients, not the other way around.

Andrew Heinegg 11:33 AM  

MEH, MEH, MEH, MEH, MEH. I thought the solve was easy enough and the difficulty of solving' level' was Wednesday appropriate but, the puzzle answers were on the high side of tedious. There are two reactions (or maybe somewhere in between) you can have upon solving. One is I am pleased with myself for having figured out answer (s) I did not know but am interested to find out about. The second is I figured the damned thing out but, who cares about it anyway. Unfortunately, almost all of today's puzzle fell into the second category for me. C'est la vie.

Melodious Funk 11:35 AM  

@Anonymous 9:58. No one responded to this so I'll try.

If you want a handle or moniker here, then after you type your comment in the posting box you will see a radio button called Name/URL. Use that and type in a handle like MaresEatOats or DoesEatOats or whatever. Publish in the usual fashion.

If you want a picture also, you may have to sign in to Google+ and follow those directions to choose one from your file or the net. Google takes care of the rest. At least that's what I did.


Sir Hillary 11:41 AM  

@Lewis - I imagine that the word "begins" satisfies the condition you are talking about.

Melodious Funk 11:44 AM  

@Anonymous 9:58.

If you decide to use Google+, after your post appears, you may see a trashcan icon beside your name. This allows you to delete your post if you've said something naughty or incorrect, as you may have seen others do here often.

If I've said something incorrect, I'm sure it will be corrected. That's a certainty.

JTHurst 12:16 PM  

@Glimmerglass - Ni hao ma? Ni shi bu dui. Hello, how are you? I am sorry but you are incorrect. In Mandarin you have the spoken language and Ta could refer to he, she or it and the gender can usually be determined by the conversation. With the pinyin Ta you can not tell but with the characters (Han zi) you can definitely tell the gender. The male Ta has a nice little spearlike symbol in its character (very phallic) while the Ta for female has the Nu er (Female) symbol as part of its character. In the possessive form you would usually say Ta de, with the 'de' indicates possession of some object.

Most teachers want you to learn characters along with the spoken language but it is a pain in the butt. With the four tones: -, /, v, \, you can take one word like 'Shi' and make it mean many different words. One of the good thing about Mandarin is that your verbal tense is non existent, no past participles, etc. And they have a tendency to structure their sentences like the German (Dir wen) language.

Lewis 12:46 PM  

@r.alph and @SirHillary -- yep!

retired_chemist 1:37 PM  

Perfectly nice puzzle. Enjoyed solving it. Medium. Hadn't heard of all the word games but it didn't matter since (a) the names were evocative, and (b) most of the crosses were straightforward.

Here's a mnemonic: Add 1966 to the number of the Super Bowl, or subtract 1966 from the year of the Super Bowl, depending on which way the clue reads. It's your problem to recall why 1966 is important in your life. Here is one list. I kinda like that it was the year that Texas Western (now UTEP), starting five black players, beat the vaunted and lily white Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA finals.

And why STAND PAT with a flush? Oh wait - it means don't draw any cards, not don't bet. I do not play poker....

A few writeovers, none of interest.

Thanks, Mr. Hilger.

allan 1:42 PM  

I thought this was perfect for a Wednesday; harder than Monday and Tuesday, but solvable with no overwrites. And at least for once there was a real purpose to the circled letters. I find that most puzzles with circles are so arbitrary. There is usually no point to the circled letters.

Benko 1:42 PM  

@lewis: My name--BEN--works.
Agree with the comments about the fill, particularly in the NW corner. But liked the theme entries and placement.

bigsteve46 1:47 PM  

I keep track of Super Bowls by (somehow) remembering that the Jets - with my (anti) hero, Joe Namath, beat the Baltimore Colts in 1969 and that was SB #3 - and I add and subtract from there Otherwise, I don't care much about Super Bowls, either.

Lewis 1:55 PM  

@ben -- it sure does!

LaneB 2:07 PM  

FsPain in the tush puzzle with junk like ESPARTO, ROOD. CORM,REMOP CGI (what is it?) and COULDA causing me to lose patience and throw in the towel cursing all the way. And on a Wednesday fer chrissake!

Sarah L. 2:22 PM  

My bad solving experience began when I put "afro" for "big do," only to have to cross it out later and put "gala." And then I thought Garfield: Fandom? Fatdom? And then I thought: Is that really something poker players do, "stand pat?" It just looks weird. Finally, I have never heard of the word game "Probe," and I'm not sure I'd want to play it. It sounds like something that happens during a colonoscopy. HOWEVER, I thought this was a clever and challenging puzzle. (I am not experienced enough to find these puzzles dreary; I just like them).

Lewis 2:37 PM  

@sarahL -- It is possible to be experienced and still not find the puzzles dreary!

Unknown 2:55 PM  

Yeah, that NW corner was pretty ugly but other than that, it was fun. But I'm a Scrabble girl so perhaps I'm biased.

Hartley70 2:56 PM  

Thanks for the Super Bowl Tip retired chemist, brilliant! Year of HS graduation makes it easy!

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

@ Lewis
Didn't get it until "BEN"


Leapfinger 3:41 PM  

1966: Got some letters after my name, some others before.

Someone remind me please, why Joe Namath pantyhose?

Jim Hilger 3:49 PM  

I love this blog -- the snark, the humor, the info, the thought-provoking criticisms. Oh yeah, and the runt puzzles. Thanks, everyone.

Looks like the NW corner took a lot of heat on this one, and you can definitely blame my mindset, for that. I didn't want to give away the "game" right away, so I wanted to make the opening corner more difficult. Cluing is one way to do that, but the clues get changed a lot. So I went with crunchier (squishier?) fill up there. I actually thought ESPARTO grass was pretty cool. (HAEC, not quite as much). So sorry, to folks that got put off by my NW shenanigans.

Not quite as much controversy, over KAT and CATDOM sharing the same litter box, as I expected. Interesting.

Thank you all, for playing the cross-word game with me, today. I'll try to improve my game.

Jim Hilger

evil doug 3:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 3:53 PM  

One-word review: B-o-r-i-n-g.

evil doug 3:54 PM  


"1966: Got some letters after my name, some others before." USMC? And Mrs.?

"Someone remind me please, why Joe Namath pantyhose?"

Advertising. If they could make his legs--riddled with zippers where he'd had lots of knee surgeries--look good, then imagine what they'd do for a hot babe?


David IN CA 3:55 PM  

Won't have those Super Bowl RRNs to kick around any more - just saw headline that they are dropping the RN as of SB 50 - which helped me in this case get that "V"!

"That bozo just spilled his coke, guess I'm gonna have to remop the floor" for me. Though do note that spellchecker has not heard of "remop".

@JohnnyMao : "America" seems to be a recognized alternate title for "My Country Tis of Thee" - so I think they did get the title fine by crossword clue standards.

Leapfinger 4:13 PM  

Hey, @D.Evil, thnx for the Namath info! I thought the dude maybe had a lingerie thingy going on.My view is there's more return on seamed silk stockings and a garter belt.

You are verrry close on the letters. one set was MSc [I'd like to say it was Marine Sci, but twere Genetics]; the predictable other was of course Mrs.

Divested myself of the one, still have the other rolled up in a drawer somewhere.

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

David IN CA, I think you have it backwards. The name of the song is "America" and its first line is "My County 'Tis of Thee." See an article from the Gilder Lehrman Institute at The illustration there shows a handwritten copy of the song by the author himself which is entitled "America."

Unknown 4:21 PM  

@Fred Smith,

Your story reminds me of a major principle of my wife's family: if you can travel well together, your marriage will take just fine -- which is why the honeymoon should come first! Stresses like the one you described are either major showstoppers or are part-of-the-firmament. Sounds like it was just one more thing for Clan Smith.

My wife lost her passport on a hillside in Norway. What fun! we thought, and spent an unanticipated extra day at the American consulate in Amsterdam to have it replaced. So long as you look on The Bright Side of Life, all will end happily, as it seems to have done for you.

Thanks for your story. I'll report it now to Mrs. Kid over our afternoon cocktail.

evil doug 4:23 PM  

"Divested myself of the one, still have the other rolled up in a drawer somewhere."

You ought to let the poor guy out of there....


sanfranman59 4:33 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 10:36, 9:54, 1.07, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 7:17, 6:11, 1.18, 88%, Challenging

Nancy 4:50 PM  

This puzzle garnered a lot more comments than I would have expected for a puzzle that was neither that difficult nor that clever. So people must have liked it, right? Yes, Joho, I also had AFRO before GALA. Never heard of TABOO (but I suppose I can Google it when I have a minute.) My problem with the puzzle is that the letters in WORD GAME weren't in order in the grid. Somehow, the word "anagram" should have been in the clues (the answer ANAGRAM doesn't count)or the words "letters"...or something. I figured it out, but thought the theme sloppy for that reason.

Leapfinger 4:52 PM  

You know it. He keeps rattling that drawer All. Night. Long.

Arlene 5:47 PM  

Nancy at 4:50 -
The letters WORD GAME are in order on the grid - read them vertically top to bottom. Also, ANAGRAM (or anagrams) is a word game - not just a description of scrambled letters. Google it - you'll see the history.

JohnnyMao 5:57 PM  

@ David in CA

I stand corrected. I was thinking of "America the Beautiful".

mathguy 5:58 PM  

Jim Hilger: Thanks for joining in. I liked the NW. HAEC reminded me of first -year Latin at St. Ignatius High with Father Gilligan, that most excellent Jesuit.

Atlantasolver: I'm going to try to get my brother to play me a game of JOTTO just so I can make KHAKI my word. What rule do you play? If your word is KHAKI and your opponent guesses WHISK, do you answer "one" or "two"? We answer "one." We had some great battles at family gatherings.

Is GHOSTS a good game?

WS 6:02 PM  

If it's America the Beautiful (Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain), the word THEE appears only once, unless you sing multiple verses. Right?
This was an enjoyable Wednesday puzzle, and every day I look forward to a new, tiny fun work of!

Anonymous 6:44 PM  

Crunchy ... and I already ate granloa for breakfast.
OK but ... had endear instead of ENAMOR, and others.
Nominated for least enjoyable NW corner (maybe ever for me).
Any seconds?
Also, anyone bothered by long long non-theme answers.
And where was Boggle?
On the smile-side:
Heard on radio just an hour before doing puzzle.
The NFL just announced Super Bowl 50 will not be "L"
It looked to much like Loser.
Although they had previously had XXX.
But rest easy, Roman numerals will return the following year -- with LI (long Island?).
Google for additional details.

chefwen 6:44 PM  

@Mohair Sam - We also had a blast with this one last night. Didn't think it was easy, we did think it was a lot of fun.

Took a plant science class so CORM was a gimme.

@Numinous - Glad that you finally got sprung. I had to laugh at your second post, your thoughts mirror mine when it comes to that "other blog".

Leapfinger 7:57 PM  


I like the game, though not sure that everyone plays it the way I learned it. It's played with any number > 2, and after picking an initial letter, turns are taken adding one letter at a time. A legitimate word has to be in mind, and the aim is not to add the last letter that completes a word, or one-third of a GHOST is earned; lose on three turns, you're a ghost and dematerialize. In one memorable game, the letters picked were O-S-S-I-F, next up was a fellow who was very good, never lost, and everyone was naturally out to get him. N was down to 2, so whether he picked ossify, ossified or ossification, he'd finish the word and be out. After thinking a moment, he called an R, and everyone erupted, especially his wife: "R!!! There's no such word!" He calmly lit his pipe and said "Ossifrage". It pays to know your Bible.

@mathguy: Glad you liked 'N Is a Number'. My brain isn't hard-wired for theoretical math, but I have an appreciation for it. Of course, I had to rerun the visuals on that red&blue proof a half dozen times to even start to catch on.

[I discovered Erdos as the fill in a Sunday NYT puzzle; one of my favourite finds.]

mac 8:35 PM  

Did this one late in the day after jury duty - crunchy for a Wednesday, allright, but overall doable. I'm vegetating the rest of the day.

chefbea 8:53 PM  

@mac how was jury duty???

Lewis 10:39 PM  

@wreck -- yep!

sanfranman59 12:05 AM  

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 5:14, 6:04, 0.86, 3%, Easy (6th lowest ratio of 230 Mondays)
Tue 8:51, 8:46, 1.01, 56%, Medium
Wed 10:36, 9:54, 1.07, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:56, 0.90, 5%, Easy (12th lowest ratio of 230 Mondays)
Tue 5:44, 5:24, 1.06, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 7:02, 6:11, 1.14, 84%, Challenging

Z 12:53 AM  


My country, 'tis of Thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.

No paper on the new porch and sign-in issues using firefox, so didn't get the puzzle until post-bar.

My Latin teacher said Hic HAEC Hoc would come in useful one day. She was right. Scary thing was that it was a gimme. The weird thing was having non-theme answers longer than the themes.

Mrs Sarah 8:35 PM  

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(6) You want to be rich.
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yours forever.
(8) If you need financial assistance.
(9) How you been scammed and you want to recover you lost money or properties? or call him +2348162024853

spacecraft 11:06 AM  

"You've just crossed over into the...EURO zone???" I'm already a EURO (???) skeptic. Where am I? Rod, help me out here! Is EURO even right? Thank fortune I follow golf enough to know the O'MEARA gimme, or I'd have been so lost...REMOP, really? And the first natick, ESPA_TO/_OOD. ROOD is, like, a medieval word. And you're pulling this stuff on a WEDENSDAY, fercryinoutloud?

I mean, I was in Serling heaven for most of this entire solve. JOTTO, TABOO, GHOST: these are supposed to be WORD GAMEs? I did know PROBE; my dad loved playing it with us kids. Here's a word he sprang on us: SYZYGY. Naturally, we were stumped. Then he made us go look up what it meant (eclipse alignment). What a guy. But I digress.

CATDOM? You want me to write CATDOM? And now in the SE you give me another natick: Yet Another Four-Letter River Name crossing Yet Another Romanumeral. It's a wonder that I didn't finish ERRANTLY (?). Managed to guess the two naticks correctly and actually solve this without even a w/o. Luck of the Germans, I guess. Sheesh, 7-1? In a World Cup semifinal? Brazil should say SHAMEONME. How can that coach not be out of a job today?

And what about tomorrow? And (shudder) the weekend? If it gets worse than this: HELP!

Uh-oh, the flashbulb burnt out. We're back to the solid black captcha. At last, one I can read (4th one). 213 = 6, I'll STANDPAT.

Solving in Seattle 1:40 PM  

CATDOM didn't get a red card from @Spacy?

915 = 6

DMG 2:11 PM  

Another puzzle where half the clues ( or so it seems) refer to some unknown thing. Not my favorite thing!!! Finally worked it out, but there is no joy in DMG-ville. Only problem was some kind of xxxcHOres for 17A, but that didn't last long. Also, I'm one of those who never heard of JOTTO, but that would make Jackson kid a lACKO which doesn't sound very kind. On to tomorrow.

6081 = 6. Same as @spacecraft and @SIS. Strange goings on in Syndiland.

rain forest 4:12 PM  

Agree with those who liked this, even though REMOP is bad and incorrectly clued. Thought CATDOM was cute, along with several other SPANGLY words. Didn't know GHOST or TABOO, which came from crosses, but I thought the theme was just fine.

I'm never sure about the rules or guidelines for partials, but they seem to be generally frowned upon, and I don't know why. I thought that BEG TO was kinda neat, but most commenters didn't like it.

Can you say that a Roman Numeral referring to a specific event in a specific year is *random*? I get that "mid nth century year" IS random. However in today's clue, a RN was used to ask for the specific year, so, not random, per se.

Cannot read the captcha. Try again. OK, 11503 = out.

Dirigonzo 5:29 PM  

I had the circled W and G in place when SCRABBLE and JOTTO appeared, so I just filled in the rest of the circles to spell "word games" and proceeded to destroy the puzzle - that doesn't happen often for me. Latin I was many decades ago for me but I managed to retrieve HAEC and Quo VADIS,and even the Roman numeral was helpful in limiting the possibilities for the St. Petersburg river crossing. Thank you Miss Baker.

Luck continues with the capcha: 9342 which, unless I'm mistaken reduces to 9!

Anonymous 6:07 PM  

Me too, on an iPhone?

dmast 11:12 AM  

Everything Rex said. Terrible NW corner!

Bill Young 2:22 PM  

No JUMBLE ?!?!!

KariSeattle 6:29 PM  

Thanks I'll try it!

KariSeattle 6:33 PM  

I didn't know what to type for URL ; tried yahoo which is my email acct and that worked!

KariSeattle 6:34 PM, that is!

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