Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014 — Picnicking with Joan Crawford


I thought that today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon continued the recent trend of raising the difficulty level a notch from what we have become accustomed to — a not unwelcome development, I might add.

My mind must be a dumping ground for useless information as I was able to dredge up the names of a turn of the previous century American journalist whose work I have never encountered, Russian and American novels I have never read, a movie made before I was born, and an actress whose work I have never watched.

I invite you to leave a comment to let us know how you fared with the puzzle.

Solution to Today's Puzzle

Falcon's Experience
- solved without assistance
- incorrect prior to use of puzzle solving tools
- solved with assistance from puzzle solving tools
- solved with aid of checking letters provided by puzzle solving tools
- solved but without fully parsing the clue
- yet to be solved

Legend: "*" anagram; "~" sounds like; "<" letters reversed

"( )" letters inserted; "_" letters deleted; "†" explicit in the clue

Primary indications (definitions) are marked with a solid underline in the clue; subsidiary indications (be they wordplay or other) are marked with a dashed underline in all-in-one (& lit.) clues, semi-all-in-one (semi-& lit.) clues and cryptic definitions.


7a   Leave // evergreen tree down by the sound (8)

FUR|LOUGH — sounds like (by the sound) {FIR (evergreen tree) + LOW (down)}

9a   Athenian character's boxing hot // heavyweights in Africa (6)

RH(IN)OS — {RHO (Athenian character; the seventeenth letter of the Greek alphabet (Ρ, ρ)) + S ('s)} containing (boxing) IN (hot)

10a   Frequently/,/ x follows decimal? (10)

OF|TEN|TIMES — TIMES (x; multiplication sign) following (follows) OF TEN (decimal; as an adjective)

11a   A Nellie who reported // with skill (4)

A|BLY — A (†) + BLY (Nellie who reported)

Nellie Bly[5] (1867–1922) was a US journalist and social reformer; pseudonym of Elizabeth Jane Cochrane. As a reporter for the Pittsburgh Dispatch, she wrote about child labor and unsafe working conditions in factories.

12a   Pushkin hero/'s/ single drink of booze (6)

ONE|GIN — ONE (single) + GIN (drink of booze)

The wordplay works even better as a phrase with "one gin" being "a single drink of booze".

Eugene Onegin[7] is a novel in verse written by Russian author Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837).

14a   Defector // stirring pot at sea (8)

APOSTATE* — anagram (stirring) of POT AT SEA

15a   1945 movie heroine/'s/ slight bloody wound (7.6)

MILD|RED| PIERCE — MILD (slight) + RED (bloody) + PIERCE (wound)

Mildred Pierce[7] is a 1945 American drama film starring Joan Crawford in a film noir about a long-suffering mother and her ungrateful daughter. The screenplay is based upon the 1941 novel Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain. The film was Crawford's first starring role for Warner Bros. after leaving MGM, and won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

17a   Irate, Sam wrecked // sportscar (8)

MASERATI* — anagram (wrecked) of IRATE SAM

Maserati[7] is an Italian luxury car manufacturer established in 1914, in Bologna.

19a   Crazy German article backing // Gulf War figure (6)

{SAD|DAM}< — reversal (backing) of {MAD (crazy) + DAS (German [definite] article)}

Saddam Hussein (1937–2006) was Iraqi President, Prime Minister, and head of the armed forces 1979–2003; full name Saddam bin Hussein at-Takriti. During his presidency, Iraq fought a war with Iran (1980-8) and invaded Kuwait (1990), from which Iraqi forces were expelled in the Gulf War of 1991. He also ordered punitive attacks on Kurdish rebels in the north of Iraq and on the Marsh Arabs in the south. He was overthrown in 2003 following the invasion and occupation of Iraq by US-led forces. He was later tried for crimes against humanity and executed.

21a   Shatter // a sculptor's artwork (4)

BUST — double definition

22a   Edith Wharton character // coming out of penetrating gas (5,5)

ETHAN (FROM)E — FROM (coming out of) contained in (penetrating) ETHANE (gas)

Ethan Frome[7] is a novel published in 1911 by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Edith Wharton (1862–1937). The novel was adapted into a film, Ethan Frome, in 1993.

24a   Slayed horses around // stalls (6)

DELAYS* — anagram (horses around) of SLAYED

25a   Take some beers back /for/ actress (4,4)

{SELA WARD}< — reversal (back) of {DRAW (take) + ALES (some beers; the others being lagers)}

Sela Ward[7] is an American actress, perhaps best known for her television roles as Teddy Reed on the American TV series Sisters (1991–96) and as Lily Manning on Once and Again (1999–2002).


1d   Mess up in // breakfast choice (6)

MUFF|IN — MUFF (mess up) + IN (†)

2d   Feeling sad/,/ played on a horn for listeners (4)

BLUE — sounds like (for listeners) BLEW (played a horn)

3d   Save printer refill // fastener (8)

BUT|TONER — BUT (save; all her brothers, save one, were lost at sea) + TONER (printer refill)

A buttoner would presumably be someone who buttons and a fastener someone who fastens.

4d   Speedy // green sauce including piece of radish (6)

P(R)ESTO — PESTO (green sauce) containing (including) R (piece [initial letter] of Radish)

5d   Ornamental columns // I put in coated with gypsum (10)

P(I)LASTERED — I (†) contained in (put in) PLASTERED (coated with gypsum)

There would appear to be something missing from the clue. "Ornamental columns" are pilasters. Pilastered means furnished with pilasters. Perhaps the clue should have read:
  • 5d   Having ornamental columns // I put in coated with gypsum (10)
6d   Gambling diversion // allowed in course (8)

ROU(LET)TE — LET (allowed) contained in (in) ROUTE (course)

8d   Picnic fare // dish a man chews rudely (3,10)

{HAM SANDWICHES}* — anagram (rudely) of DISH A MAN CHEWS

13d   Liberating plays // reminiscent of W.S. (10)

GILBERTIAN* — anagram (plays) of LIBERATING

Sir W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) was an English dramatist; full name William Schwenck Gilbert. He is best known as a librettist who collaborated on light operas with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan. Notable works: HMS Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), and The Mikado (1885).

15d   Uniform // definitely covered with fermented honey (8)

MEA(SURE)D — SURE (definitely) contained in (covered with) MEAD (fermented honey)

16d   School's principal interrupting foolishly /and/ senselessly (8)

IN(S)ANELY — S (School's principal [initial letter]) contained in (interrupting) INANELY (foolishly)

18d   Relaxed /with/ a flirt (2,4)

A|T EASE — A (†) + TEASE (flirt)

As a link word, with[11] is used in the sense of characterized by or having ⇒ a person with intelligence and initiative.

20d   Look up to // notice muddy patch (6)

AD|MIRE — AD ([commercial] notice) + MIRE (muddy patch)

This is an instance where one must apply the principle of "lift and separate" (a humorous reference to brassiere ads). The infinitive "to notice" that appears in the surface reading must be lifted and separated into its component parts. The first part (to) is part of the definition, while the second part (notice) is part of the wordplay.

23d   Fights // are exciting, according to audience (4)

ROWS — sounds like (to audience) ROUSE (are exciting)


The title of today's blog was inspired by 8d and 15a.
Key to Reference Sources: 

[1]   - The Chambers Dictionary, 11th Edition
[2]   - Search Chambers - (Chambers 21st Century Dictionary)
[3]   - (American Heritage Dictionary)
[4]   - (Collins English Dictionary)
[5]   - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford Dictionary of English)
[6]   - Oxford Dictionaries (Oxford American Dictionary)
[7]   - Wikipedia
[8]   - Reverso Online Dictionary (Collins French-English Dictionary)
[9]   - Infoplease (Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
[10] - (Collins English Dictionary)
[11] - (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon


  1. Hi Falcon -I too was initially nonplussed by the clues (not to mention the shape of the puzzle which doesn't allow for providing first letters!). But with the help of my trusty internet connection, it wasn't too bad after all.
    One thing though - 23d, I had the same answer, but I didn't think the homophone was that homophonic.

    1. I think the homophone is pretty accurate when "rows" is pronounced as in 'fights' as opposed to 'rows a boat'.

      However, I thought that "rouses" meaning "is exciting" was maybe a bit of a stretch. While a sporting event that "is exciting" certainly "rouses" the spectators, I couldn't think of a compelling example where the two expressions could be substituted one-for-one. "The game is exciting. / The games rouses.". The latter is certainly not something that I would say.

  2. The literary and movie names magically popped up for me, as well. I'm continually amazed at the leaps the human brain can make. So, pretty much a write-in, other than getting stuck on 7a. On seeing the checking letters, bullrush became lodged my mind and refused to go on furlough.

    Re 23d: I agree that rouse seems an awkward synonym for exciting. Not even the same part of speech. Similarly, 5d is an adjective, while ornamental columns is a noun. Don't mean to sound picky. I enjoy Cox & Rathvon puzzles immensely and happy to allow them a few liberties.

    Have a great weekend!

    -- megaculpa, out on the wet coast.

    1. I concluded that "rouses" is intended to be a synonym for "is exciting" which is certainly a better fit than merely "exciting". However, it still seems (as you put it) a bit awkward.

      And you are not the only one who's wet. It's wet here today also.

  3. Hi Falcon,
    I concur with you on 5d - not a perfectly worded clue. Also noticed you have a typo in the solution to 15a (Peirce).
    Thanks again for your regular postings!

    1. MG

      Thank you as always for your thorough proofreading. Typo now fixed.