Default: 324477
Default with Spaces: 101817

Transposal: Toric desserts (5 5) / Beach toy (4 6)

* * *


The word lists I’ve recently received from friends of the Project contain a fair amount of science and mathematical terms. I’m happy to balance the sports and entertainment additions that I get from published indie puzzles with academic content. I Googled the phrase DIVERGENTSERIES to do a quick check on its appearance as a dictionary entry, and found that the earliest hits favor the book series by Veronica Roth. So here’s a phrase that works in both academia and pop culture šŸ™‚


I came upon this phrase years ago when I was looking for transposals of world nations (the nation is question is an exercise for the reader). I added the phrase to a shared Google spreadsheet of transposals, and now it comes back in a shared word list as a candidate for Default. It’s sort of funny in the right context, but it’s green-painty, non-breakfast-test, and somewhat dated as the word “video” suggests videotape rather than modern media. I’ll add it for the sake of wordplay nostalgia, but at a low score. I’ll also see if including the entry in this blog posts generates some new readership via search engine.


I learned of this item after reading a recent article on infomerical products — it is apparently a hot seller. I can think of a fellow wordplay fan and maintainer a math puzzle website who would find the name of the product interesting.





Default: 323452
Default with Spaces: 100711

Transposal: Spools used for bandaging (6 5) / Went into a skid, e.g. (4 7)

* * *


Crossword constructor Matt Gaffney used this word to describe himself when he was recently interviewed on public radio (here’s a link if you’d like to hear the interview). I jotted the word down because I thought it might not be in Default. I also thought about the fact that I enjoy puzzles and games, and I seek the company of those who also enjoy them and play them very well, but I don’t consider myself to be very competitive. I feel I’m something of an anomaly in that regard. Obviously, millions of people solve crosswords and the like on a daily basis with no competitive fervor whatsoever, but I’m a person who makes puzzles and travels several times a year to tournaments and puzzle events, and yet I don’t really care about winning or losing. It could be a sour-grapes psychological reaction to my fair-to-middling showing in most puzzle contests, but I’m happy just getting my participation credentials in this wonderful community.


Peter Broda recently joined the group of puzzles with whom I have traded word lists. Peter’sĀ  “Cross Nerd” blog was suspended almost a year ago, but he has intimated some interest in future crossword-related web projects. In the meantime, I’m happy to reap some benefit from his excellent storehouse of word data, though it just increases the elevation of the Sisyphean hill I’ve been climbing.



Default: 322351
Default with Spaces: 99518

Transposal: Factory work option (4 5) / “C’est la vie” (5 4)

* * *


So, I guess some people drink a lot on the night before Thanksgiving either to fortify themselves for the stress of the impending family gathering or just to kick off a four-day weekend. It’s a new term for me. It certainly adds some trepidation to people who are driving to Thanksgiving destinations on Wednesday, and that includes me this year.


I was shocked to discover this entry, pulled from a recent Neville Fogarty puzzle, was an omission from the database. I thought I had used game shows as a theme list ages ago but I can’t find a record of it. I have SURVEYSAYS (70) but not the show it comes from!


On the subject of SURVEYSAYS (and continuing the theme of highlighting entries with a tangential relationship to Thanksgiving), I added some television quotations and catchphrases last week. After including IAMTHEDANGER, I poked around some websites to find some arbitrary top-n lists. The example above, from a classic Alka-Seltzer commercial, demonstrates that I still collect entries for Default that have little practical value for grid puzzles. What are your favorite TV quotations?






Default: 321384
Default with Spaces: 98323

Transposal: Married couple with foster children, e.g. (11) / Govt. label on some Whole Foods produce (4 7)


* * *

BLAWG (70)

This week I added some * BLOG phrases to my notepad, similar to the recent * APP additions. I discovered some semirelated terms such as SCRAPERSITE and WAREZSCENE, and also found that BLAWG is a shorthand, and not entirely celebrated term for a LAWBLOG. I’m just glad that Arrested Development lawyer Bob Loblaw went with the longer version for comic reasons.


I’ve started looking at some of my previous theme list categories recorded in a Google Doc for ideas of entries to add using the new space-and-case formatting. I can find lists on the Internet for Hall of Fame baseball players or Oscar winning films that are easy to copy, paste, and append with score suffixes, and many of the lists are old enough that I get a few new entries. For auto makes, I found a list of the 250 best sellers in North America in 2013. My original theme list of makes was more comprehensive, but this is a good start for the reformatting.


Shout out to good friend Dave Shukan, Tinhorn in the NPL,Ā  with whom I started sharing word lists this week! The first list he sent contains over 6,000 entries. Dave is also a transposal finder, and has come across some doozies using the Wikipedia headword list.


My most recent Unthemely seed came from Tyler Hinman in a conversation we had at a sushi restaurant before the Crosswords LA tournament. He used it in a clever punch line that I unfortunately can’t remember. And, my clue in the puzzle doesn’t live up to the cleverness of the entry’s inspiration; I went with a straightforward approach based on the clues chosen for nearby entries.


Default: 319913
Default with Spaces: 97022

Transposal: Some of Henry VIII’s wives (10) / Ink wash paintings, e.g. (7 3)


* * *


I’ve noticed that Mark Diehl’s word list contains some less-than-common video game references. When I came to the entry CHOMPCHOMP, I initially wondered if the phrase was added as a generic term for the sound effects of a ravenous eater. The I remembered that Chomp Chomp is a character from the Mario universe; a sentient ball-and-chain enemy. I actually remembered the Mario reference only after thinking of the fact that Pac-Man’s dog is named Chomp-Chomp, according to the ABC Saturday-morning cartoon and the arcade game Pac-Land based on said cartoon. Are there any other CHOMPCHOMPs I should know about?


Food is always a great subject for stimulating conversation in a group of people who don’t know one another very well. One of my favorite food questions is: what food did you hate in early life and only came to develop a taste for in recent years? The most common answer given to me is tomatoes, and that is the answer I would give to the question. I jotted down some heirloom tomato cultivars this week for Default. Do you have an answer to my food question besides tomatoes?


I just realized today that the Breaking Bad complete series disc collection — the one on sale this month in a miniature plastic barrel — is only being released on Blu-Ray. I may have to upgrade to a Blu-Ray player so I can get this collection, though I’m wary of investing in physical media these days.




Default: 319821
Default with Spaces: 95838

Transposal: Mail (5 5) / Gym furnishing used for core training (5 5)

* * *


My current work projects involve several different editors and style guides, and I sometimes find it difficult to remember when I need to use Oxford commas, when to use two spaces after a period, etc. My personal writing style is a mishmash of the styles I use for work and it changes over time. I struggle with the style rule regarding possessives of words ending in S, but I used to write “Charles’ Law” and now write “Charles’s Law.” My understanding is that the former is not essentially wrong but it is old-fashioned and unpopular. I decided to add both CHARLESLAW and CHARLESSLAW to Default, and rather than try to graduate the relative merits of the two spelling with different fill scores I assigned both a 55.


I jotted this down after reading news items following the death of choral composer John Tavener. I was reminded of how the ATHENE spelling used to appear as often as ATHENA in crossword puzzles, and how, when solving the clue {Goddess of wisdom (6)}, I still tend to leave the last letter blank until I can check the crossing. Ginsberg doesn’t list any ATHENE clues that reference the Tavener work, but that would be a good (an unambiguous) option.



Default: 319619
Default with Spaces: 95620

Transposal: Spongebob Squarepants dental feature (4 5) / Half moon? (4 5)

* * *


My family didn’t go out to eat very often when I was young. My parents were content cooking at home, which was the economical choice. and I, the youngest and least assertive of my siblings, raised no objection. I do recall that when the family wanted fast food hamburgers, we preferred Burger Chef or White Castle over McDonald’s. My parents were probably fond of Burger Chef’s toppings bar, and I enjoyed the children’s Fun Meal, which predated the McDonald’s Happy Meal. The Fun Meal’s cardboard form included perforated compartments for the hamburger, French fries, and a big chocolate sandwich cookie. The cookie was chalky and mediocre, but sugar is sugar. When we moved from St. Louis to Kansas City, Burger Chef was no longer part of our immediate surroundings; western Missouri was Hardee’s territory. Seeing BURGERCHEF in Mark Diehl’s list evoked some great memories.


I recently took a Sporcle quiz involving missing words in Prince song titles and scored something like 7 out of 16. Prince was a figure on my radar during the Purple Rain days, but I never registered him as being a more talented or important musician than, say, Billy Idol or Hall & Oates, and I lost track of his career when I headed off for college. As an adult, I discovered that many friends held a very strong admiration for Prince and his superior talents in songwriting and guitar playing. One of my male coworkers is such a fan that he has a tattoo of the Prince glyph on one of his upper arms. Professional criticism backs up the adulation, so I guess Prince represents the modern musical genius that I am unable to recognize.



Default: 318798
Default with Spaces: 94728

Transposal: Basks on the beach (4 1 3) / Languish (8)

* * *

BARF (50)

This entry was already in Default but with a fill score low enough that CCWIN flagged it when it appeared in a recent Erik Agard (a puzzle with a clever quotation theme). Erik clued it as {“That’s disgusting!”}, which is reminiscent of Joan Rivers’s classic stand-up patter and an improvement on the direct {Vomit} approach. John Candy’s character from Spaceballs is another option. I chose to rescore the entry higher than 40, even though it’s probably not welcome in all mainstream markets.


This entry could be clued as {1959 British comedy about a man in search of a wife, with “The”}, though crossword solvers know the phrase as a clue option for the entry AISLE. Because I encounter more crosswords than horse trails, I sometimes get confused over which phrase is real and which is the pun; they both look like they could be dictionary phrases. It’s one of the dangers of crossword construction — to accidentally use a lookalike entry and not discover the error until after the grid is filled. I included WHACKAMOLE in an Unthemely puzzle and then discovered that the arcade game brand name does not have a K. A constructor placed JUSTDESSERTS in a themeless puzzle a few years back and resorted to a contrived clue rather than amending the grid. Do you have a story about a false lookalike crossword entry?


Word Spy posted this term for a platform shoe with a flat sole. The site also posted COATIGAN for a garment that combines a coat and a cardigan sweater. I wonder if a person could assemble a fashion outfit made entirely of portmanteaus. Maybe a tangelo-colored fracket would go with that fantabulous skort covering that fugly pair of jeggings. And don’t forget your murse and guyliner. This should be a Project Runway challenge!


Default: 318257
Default with Spaces: 94124

Transposal: Securities market events (4 6) / Transact (2 8)

* * *


My sister Martha, who teaches middle school English and social studies, recently told me about a classroom experience in which she was discussing the Bikini Atoll and its relationship to atomic testing in the 1950s. A student asked if the Bikini Atoll was the site of Bikini Bottom, home of Spongebob Squarepants. The question triggered an epiphany in Martha: of course Bikini Bottom is the submarine portion of Bikini Atoll! The creators of the show clearly created Spongebob, Patrick Star, et al. as the mutant sea life that resulted from the detonation of nuclear blasts. I don’t know a whole lot about Spongebob, but I suspect that Martha’s theory about Bikini Bottom isn’t quite the same as the vision of the show’s creators. Can anyone offer some insight?


This term, the fear of the number 666, showed up in Word Spy this week. When I read the article, I remembered hearing the word for the first time in a late-night Jeopardy! game created by Trip Payne and presented at ACPT some years ago. That made me think about ACPT and how the move from Stamford to Brooklyn destroyed the tournament’s late-night scene. For attendees who didn’t worry about getting plenty of rest for crossword solving, the Stamford-era ACPT offered gaming, piano playing, and drunken who-looks-more-like-Boris-Becker contests well into the wee hours. The Brooklyn Marriott closes its meeting space to discourage late-night socializing, and since most of the tournament people are New Yorkers content with going home after the puzzle rounds, the impetus for staying up late at ACPT has subsided. I suspect that late-night nostalgia played a part in some of the votes cast in Will Shortz’s Brooklyn-or-Stamford straw poll from a few months back, but I can’t imagine the glory days of the Princess Ida room will ever be re-created.


Congratulations to the rubber duck, which joins chess as the latest inductees into the U.S. National Toy Hall of Fame. Here’s a Sesame Street clip to celebrate.





Default: 317543
Default with Spaces: 93336

Transposal (10): 1984 film billed as “The music and break dance explosion of the summer!” / One checking for bugs, say


* * *


While going through lists of potential database additions, I frequently encounter entries in which the meaning is inferrable but I still want to check for dictionary value. If the entry is in an actual dictionary, I’ll add it. If not, I have to make judgment calls based on Google hits. Unnamed objects of contemporary technology and culture can be tricky until the tipping point of popular consensus creates a definitive source, e.g. BLUESCREENOFDEATH. I suspected that the term BACKBUTTON referred to the arrow icon on a Web browser, but wasn’t sure if it was a popular, definitive term or just a very basic description concocted by a handful of computer users. The entry appears in Wikipedia, which tends to be a reliable crucible of popular consensus, and has also migrated to Dictionary.com, so I felt okay adding it.


Pass the Chicken, the ancestor of Peter Gordon’s excellent smartphone app Celebrity: Get a Clue, is one of the first parlor games I learned when I started attending puzzle gatherings. Because NPLers can be high-intensity gamers, the names added to the “chicken bucket” were often obscure (ENRICO PALAZZO), difficult to clue charade style (OMAROSA MANIGAULT-STALLWORTH) or just plain bizarre (INANIMATE CARBON ROD). I always meant to add the name of NPR’s Africa correspondentĀ OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON to a game of Pass the Chicken not only because her name would fit the second category of challenge described above, but because her trademark pronunciation of her byline location “Da-KAAARRR” would be a great second-round clue.


Due to franchising disputes that I don’t fully understand, Trader Joe’s has not opened any stores in Denver. These disputes were resolved and the first swath of stores is poised to open in 2014, but up until now, fans of Trader Joe’s signature items had to resort to care packages sent from friends and family out of state. My coworker Tess introduced me to the Speculoos Cookie Butter sold at the store, and I was reminded of the Dutch windmill cookies that my grandparents used to keep stocked in the pantry. Eric Maddy recently posted about Cookie Butter on Facebook, and as Eric’s followers proclaimed their love for this “crack inĀ  a jar,” I decided to fast-track the entry as a crossword seed. While looking up clue options for OREO, also in the grid, I discovered Internet recipes for a homemade chocolate-and-cream variation on Speculoos Cookie Butter. Will the Trader Joe’s favorite branch out into different flavors?