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Today's Puzzles / Channeling the May 16 crossword
« Last post by Thomps2525 on May 16, 2017, 08:59:46 PM »
After many years of solving crossword puzzles, Debbie Ellerin in 2014 started trying to create her own, with famed creator Nancy Salomon as her mentor. Ellerin's first published crossword appeared in March 2015 in the New York Times. Her puzzle today includes BACKCHANNEL ("Unofficial means of communication") and each of four answers contains three circled letters which are names of television networks -- backwards:

Umami detectors: TASTEBUDS
San Francisco neighborhood: NOBHILL
Where to pick up 'will call' tickets: BOXOFFICE
Two-time Emmy winner for 30 Rock: ALECBALDWIN

BET, HBO, FOX and ABC -- "back channels." Very clever. The term "back channel" was coined in 1970 by Victor Yngve (1920-2012), a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and developer of computer programming language.  When one person is speaking to another, he may hear non-verbal sounds from the other person, such as "Mm-hm" or "Hmph!"  Those responses are communicated and understood via a "back channel" without the speaker having to acknowledge them. Yngve's theory doesn't make much sense to me.....but the term no longer has the same meaning. Since the mid-1970s, it has meant "a real-time online conversation using networked computers that takes place alongside live spoken remarks." It also means "a secret, unofficial or informal channel of communication as used in politics or diplomacy." It is that latter sense that is utilized in today's puzzle.

"Umami" is Japanese for  "delicious taste" ( うま味 ) and refers to a brothy or meaty taste. Since 1985, the word has been accepted by the scientific community. It joins the other basic tastes of sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness. For a detailed explanation involving "the detection of the carboxylate anion of glutamate in specialized receptor cells," see the Wikipedia entry:

Today's puzzle includes the much-overused words ONO, EDIT and ERIE. It also includes SCENE, clued with "Movie trailer segment." In the 1940s-50s-60s, trailers were previews of upcoming movies and were shown in theaters after the main feature. Many people continue to call them "trailers" even though they no longer trail the movie. They are previews and they are shown before the main feature.

"Ghostly greeting" is BOO. The word dates from the early 1800s and was a derisive sound imitative of the mooing of cows. I have no idea how "moo" became "boo." The word is now "an exclamation said suddenly to surprise someone; an exclamation said to show disapproval or contempt, especially at a performance or athletic contest." In cartoons, movies and comic books, ghosts usually say "Boo!" I wonder if anyone has ever tried to verify that ghosts really do say "Boo." Maybe they don't. Maybe the cartoons, movies and comic books are wrong. After all, Native Americans never said "How" -- their greeting was "Aho" -- but they were often depicted saying "How" in movies and tv shows.

That ends the discussion of today's crossword. I guess you could say I went through the proper channels.
General Discussion / Re: LA TIMES
« Last post by phil262 on May 15, 2017, 06:45:31 PM »
Monday is generally a bad day for a lot of things. ;)
General Discussion / LA TIMES
« Last post by BALLYHOO on May 15, 2017, 11:06:42 AM »
Today's Puzzles / My oh my, it's the May 14 crossword
« Last post by Thomps2525 on May 14, 2017, 03:38:25 PM »
Ann Reeves Jarvis, born in 1832, was a West Virginia Sunday School teacher who started "Mother's Day Work Clubs" in several cities to teach mothers how to care for their children and keep them safe and healthy. She was also a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers during the Civil War. After Ann died in 1905, her daughter Anna sought to continue her mother's work by campaigning for the establishment of an annual Mother's Day holiday. By 1911, all US states observed Mother's Day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother's Day as a national holiday to be held on the second Sunday in May.

Anna Jarvis became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. She wanted people to honor their mothers in their own personal way and not by buying "Mother's Day flowers" and "Mother's Day candy" and "Mother's Day cards." I wonder she would have thought about a "Mother's Day crossword puzzle." Bruce Haight's crossword today is titled "For Mom" and the theme answers are M-O-M phrases:

Tycoon, e.g.: MANOFMEANS
Antacid name since 1872: MILKOFMAGNESIA
Encounter stiff competition: MEETONESMATCH
Rich, and then some: MADEOFMONEY
Apt time to recognize this puzzle's honoree: MONTHOFMAY

"Familia girl" is NINA, which is wrong. The word is "niña" and it is not used in English. "Venezia casino winner" is SETTE, which means "seven" in Italian and is not used in English. "One digging hard rock" is a cute clue for MINER. 

"____ Biscuit, product debut of 1912" is OREO. How many thousands of times has "Oreo" appeared in a crossword? I lost count many years ago. The Manhattan-based National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco) introduced the Oreo cookie in 1912. It was advertised as "Two beautifully embossed chocolate-flavored wafers with a rich cream filling" -- and it was just a clone of the Hydrox cookie introduced by Sunshine Bakeries four years earlier. Nobody is certain what the word "Oreo" means. It may derive from the French word for "gold" or the Greek word for "mountain." It may represent the O shape of the wafers and the cream filling. And it may be completely made up and mean nothing at all. Here is a history of the Oreo:

Now I'm going to go watch a 1941 movie starring Betty Grable and Don Ameche: Moon Over Miami. Happy Mother's Day!
Today's Puzzles / The May 9 crossword is pretty sharp
« Last post by Thomps2525 on May 09, 2017, 04:32:57 PM »
Victor Barocas lives in St. Paul and teaches biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. He also creates crossword puzzles and is writing a series of mystery novels, Ada Cross, Crossword Detective, which will include mysterious crosswords (which can be solved by the reader) containing clues to solving crimes. Barocas' puzzle today includes three answers with circled letters spelling a type of sword used in fencing:

Gadget used on carrots: VEGETABLEPEELER
Deepwater Horizon catastrophe: GULFOILSPILL

"Activity one might see at a circus" -- and a feature of those three answers -- is SWORDSWALLOWING.

EPEE is one of the most commonly-used words in crossword puzzles. An épée -- the word is French for "sword" --  is a heavy sword used in dueling. A foil is a lighter sword used in training for a duel. A sabre or saber is a sharp-edged sword used for slashing. The website of the Oregon division of the United States Fencing Association goes into more detail:

As for the circus act, does anyone really swallow a sword? No -- the sword is passed through the mouth and down the esophagus into the stomach and is then withdrawn. The How Stuff Works website has a six-page article detailing how sword swallowing is accomplished.....but, kids, don't try this at home!

"No-win situation" is a clever clue for TIE. "CDX x V" is MML. I wish crossword creators would avoid using Roman numerals.....and foreign words. Let's extend the "America first" philosophy to crossword puzzles.
Today's Puzzles / The May 7 crossword: Pardon my French
« Last post by Thomps2525 on May 07, 2017, 04:30:11 PM »
Paul Coulter has worked as a chef, a security guard, a hospital director, a women's soccer coach and a genetics lab research assistant. He has also written several novels and held several positions in corporate marketing. Somehow he also finds the time to create crossword puzzles. His puzzle today is titled "French Connection," a nod to the 1971 movie The French Connection, which starred Gene Hackman as a maverick detective who stops an international syndicate from smuggling $32 million worth of heroin into New York City. Each of five rows includes two words or phrases of equal length. The first is French and the second is English and both use the same clue:

"Win some, lose some": CESTLAVIE, THATSLIFE
"Confidentially...": ENTRENOUS, BETWEENUS
Fine dining aficionados: BONVIVANTS, EPICUREANS

Those five French terms are common in the English language as well.

"Buck naked" means "completely naked" -- although I don't think it's possible for someone to be partially naked. Anyway, the term dates from the 19th century. A "buck" is a male deer. Under chattel slavery, young male black slaves were also called "bucks." They were treated as property the same as livestock and could be bought, sold or traded. Prior to being sold, slaves were naked so they could be inspected. Sadly, chattel slavery still exists in parts of the world:

The word "epicurean" is an adjective but it is also often used as a synonym for "epicure." It originally meant "a follower of Epicouros." Epicourous (341-270 BCE), was an Athenian philosopher who taught that pleasure is the greatest good and virtue is the greatest pleasure. In the 16th century, "epicure" came to mean "someone who lives solely for sensual pleasure; especially, a glutton." The word now means "a person who cultivates a refined taste in food and drink; connoisseur."

The crossword includes the way-too-overused words ALE, ALI, ERA, ONO, SST, AFAR and AREA. "Françoise's friend" is AMIE, which is not used in English. "Often elided pronoun" is YOUALL. Yes, it is often pronounced "y'all" but "you all" is not a pronoun. Only the "you" is a pronoun. The clue should have said "Often elided Southern term." WHO was clued with "Routine first baseman?" "Who's On First" is a comedy routine popularized by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. They copyrighted it in 1944, recorded it in 1945 and performed it dozens of times in movies, tv shows and live performances. Some sources say Abbott & Costrello wrote the sketch. Other sources credit comedy writer Irving Gordon or songwriter Michael Musto. Regardless of who wrote it, it is arguably the most famous comedy sketch of all time.  "Who's on first?" "Who." "The guy playing first." "Who." Here is the longest version of the sketch:

"When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?" "Every dollar of it. And why not? The man's entitled to it." Classic!

Software / Technical / Crozl: a different site for building and sharing crosswords
« Last post by crozl on May 03, 2017, 02:16:59 AM »

Please try out ,  yet another site for free crossword building and sharing.

What is the difference: Crozl gives suggestions for words that match while it includes clues from wiktionary word definitions, and makes dense crossword building super easy.

One can put as much effort as he likes, in fact the app has a button for automatically building  (or finishing) pretty good random dense crosswords.

Crozl is not about building professional symmetric crosswords. The idea is to democratize crossword building and re-engage young people to challenge their friends, with personalized crosswords shared through social media.

Keep an eye for the upcoming feature of embedding built (or existing) crosswords into any site or blog.
General Support / Re: LA TIMES
« Last post by juniper36 on May 01, 2017, 05:08:52 PM »
Also having problems getting May puzzle LA Times! 
General Support / LA TIMES
« Last post by BALLYHOO on May 01, 2017, 10:05:22 AM »
Today's Puzzles / A few lines about the April 30 crossword
« Last post by Thomps2525 on April 30, 2017, 02:43:09 PM »
Pam Amick Klawitter has written nine books and created nine crosswords. Her books, which target young school students, include Mapworks, Poetry Works, Critical Thinking Social Studies and Wordwise: Creative Puzzles To Enrich Vocabulary. Her first crossword appeared in March 2008. Today's is only her ninth but, like her other puzzles, is very clever. It's titled "Haiku." A haiku, which means "opening stanza" in Japanese, is a three-line poem consisting of 17 on (loosely, "syllables"). The first and last lines each have five syllables and the middle line has seven. Examples of haiku can be seen at

"Feature of haiku, and of the answers to starred clues" is THREELINES. Each theme answer contains three words which can precede "line":

Sale indicator : REDPRICETAG
What it often is on a summer day: HOTOUTSIDE
One-to-one conversation: PRIVATEPHONECHAT
Scuba divers' bash: UNDERWATERPARTY
Highly sought-after charter captain: TOPFISHINGGUIDE
Iconic suburban symbol: WHITEPICKETFENCE
Awkward TV silence: DEADAIRTIME

Many crosswords have two-word phrases where each word can be combined with another word to form a new phrase. This is the first such crossword I've ever seen with three-word phrases. However, TV silence is called simply "dead air." I have never heard the term "dead air time."

"French article" is UNE, which is not used in English. "Tampico trio" is TRES, which is not used in English. "José's half dozen" is SEIS, which is not used in English. "Slew" is SCAD, which I have never seen used as a singular. Large amounts are referred to as "scads," plural. The word dates from the 1860s and is possibly connected to the 17th-century Cornish word scad, which was previously "shad" and referred to a spiky-scaled fish also known as a horse mackerel. "K-12, in brief" is ELHI (elementary school and high school), a word that appears far too frequently in crossword puzzles.....and only in crossword puzzles. Today we also get the much-overused words ADO, ALPS, ERA, EPEE, OPIE, OLE and ALOE.

I close with this haiku:

A clever crossword
By Pam Amick Klawitter.
Please, Pam, make some more.

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