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Author Topic: Channeling the May 16 crossword  (Read 1318 times)


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Channeling the May 16 crossword
« 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.


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