Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday, August 15, 2015 — Didos of the Menace


Today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon was a pleasant exercise for a hot day by the lake — no requirement for exceptionally hard thinking to cause the brain to overheat. Even the obscure Austrian poet was easily spotted.

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. Explicit link words and phrases are enclosed in forward slashes (/link/) and implicit links are shown as double forward slashes (//).


1a   Casper cracked // criminal schemes (6)

CAPERS* — anagram (cracked) of CASPER

Scratching the Surface
Could this possibly be an allusion to Casper the Friendly Ghost[7]? From my recollection, Casper was not known as a crime fighter [ironically, I initially inadvertently mistyped "crime frighter"]. He generally left that to Superman, Batman and Spiderman.

However, in what surely has to be one of the most bizarre and ill-advised storylines of all time, Casper appeared in a Saturday morning animated series Casper and the Angels[7] produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. In the series, which is set in the year 2179, Casper acts as a guardian angel for two female motorcycle space cops. Thankfully, the series aired for only a single season (1979–80) on NBC.

The show was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of two television shows of that era — the crime drama Charlie's Angels and the motorcycle police drama CHiPs,  The show was Hanna-Barbera's second attempt to exploit the popularity of the former show, the first being Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels.

4a   Shorter // baseball official in second level (8)

ST(UMP)IER — UMP (baseball official) contained in (in) {S (second; abbrev.} + TIER (level)}

9a   Queen’s chair // tossed in the sound (6)

THRONE~ — sounds like (in the sound) THROWN (tossed)

10a   Group sitting in sled, // plastered (8)

S(PACK)LED — PACK (group) contained in (sitting in) SLED (†)

11a   Ropes // fifty-one cats (9)

LI|FELINES — LI ([Roman numeral for] fifty-one) + FELINES (cats)

13a   Occasions for amiably getting together // fruit (5)

DATES — double definition

14a   A TV set in use, playing // The Six Million Dollar Man (5,6)

{STEVE AUSTIN}* — anagram (playing) of A TV SET IN USE

The Six Million Dollar Man[7] is an American television series about a former astronaut with bionic implants working for a fictional government office known as OSI. The series is based on the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg, which was the series's proposed title during pre-production. The title role of Steve Austin was played by Lee Majors, who subsequently became a pop culture icon of the 1970s.

Following three television movies aired in 1973, The Six Million Dollar Man aired on the ABC network as a regular series for five seasons from 1974 to 1978. A spin-off series, The Bionic Woman, ran from 1976 to 1978 (and, in turn, was the subject of a remake in 2007). Three television movies featuring both eponymous characters were also produced between 1987 and 1994.

18a   Child of the Fifties matured around mid-Seventies /and/ returned home? (11)

BOOMER|A(N)GED — BOOMER (Child of the Fifties; short for baby boomer[7]) + AGED (matured) containing (around) N (mid-Seventies; middle letter of SeveNties)

The solution, as a verb, is derived from the expression boomerang kid[5] (or boomeranger), a young adult who goes back to live with a parent after a period of independence.

21a   Respectful refusal // confused Irons (2,3)

{NO SIR}* — anagram (confused) of IRONS

Scratching the Surface
The surface reading might be a reference to English actor Jeremy Irons[7]. He is one of the few actors who have won the "Triple Crown of Acting", winning an Academy Award (for film), an Emmy Award (television) and a Tony Award (for theatre).

22a   Attentive // old British maid or butler (9)

O|B|SERVANT — O (old; abbrev.) + B (British; abbrev.) + SERVANT (maid or butler)

24a   SCTV’s Short lives /for/ cocktails (8)

MARTIN|IS — MARTIN (SCTV's Short; comedian Martin Short) + IS (lives)

Martin Short[7] is a Canadian-American actor, comedian, writer, singer and producer. He is best known for his comedy work, particularly on the TV programs SCTV and Saturday Night Live as well as numerous films. He also won a Tony Award for Leading Actor in a Musical for the 1999 Broadway revival of Little Me.

25a   White person // free on bail (6)

ALBINO* — anagram (free) of ON BAIL

26a   Sue // landed at inn’s front entrance (8)

LIT|I|GATE — LIT (landed) + (at) I (inn's front; initial letter of Inn) + GATE (entrance)

27a   Comic strip menace // acted badly in comeback (6)

DENNIS< — reversal (in comeback) of SINNED (acted badly)

Dennis the Menace may refer to separate UK and U.S. comic strip characters that debuted within days of each other in March 1951 in their respective readership areas, and are still published as of 2015.

Dennis the Menace[7] is a daily syndicated newspaper comic strip originally created, written, and illustrated by Hank Ketcham. It debuted on March 12, 1951, in 16 newspapers. It is now written and drawn by Ketcham's former assistants, Marcus Hamilton and Ron Ferdinand, and distributed to at least 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and in 19 languages.

Coincidentally, another cartoon strip titled Dennis the Menace[7] was published in the British comic The Beano just days before the debut of Ketcham's version. The UK Dennis is quite different in appearance and character, characterized by his red-and-black striped jersey, his dog Gnasher, and his gang of friends. Like the American character, the UK one remains popular to this day and has made the transition to television cartoons. In Britain, Ketcham's comic strip was dubbed Just Dennis or The Pickle to avoid confusion with the native UK version of Dennis the Menace. The television version screened in the UK simply as Dennis. The UK comic strip was briefly renamed Dennis and Gnasher but has returned to being called Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.


1d   Riding in old Olds, leader of club // skipped school (3,5)

CUT (C)LASS — C (leader of club; initial letter of Club) contained in (riding in) CUTLASS (old Olds)

The Oldsmobile Cutlass[7] is a line of automobiles that were made by Oldsmobile. The Cutlass began as a unibody compact car, but saw its greatest success as a body-on-frame intermediate car.

Introduced in 1961 as the top trim level in Olds' compact F-85 line, over the years the Cutlass name accumulated great brand equity, and became one of the most popular nameplates in the industry in the 1970s. By the 1980s, Oldsmobile was using the Cutlass as a sub-marque, with numerous vehicle lines bearing the name simultaneously. These included the Cutlass Calais compact, the midsize Cutlass Ciera, the Cutlass Cruiser station wagon, and the premium midsize Cutlass Supreme. By mid-1999, all versions of the Cutlass had been taken out of production.

2d   Fired up, I madly // cleaned (8)

PURIFIED* — anagram (madly) of FIRED UP I

3d   Learn mistakenly // of the kidneys (5)

RENAL* — anagram (mistakenly) of LEARN

5d   Playfully pester testy // print shop workers (11)

TYPESETTERS* — anagram (playfully) of PESTER TESTY

6d   Old country // club put on one gala, finally (9)

MACE|DON|I|A — MACE (club) + DON (put on) + I ([Roman numeral for] one) + A (gala, finally; final letter of galA)

Macedonia[5] was an ancient country in southeastern Europe, at the northern end of the Greek peninsula. In classical times it was a kingdom which under Philip II and Alexander the Great became a world power. The region is now divided between Greece, Bulgaria, and the republic of Macedonia.

The name Macedonia continues to exist in the form of:
  1. the landlocked republic in the Balkans; population 2,066,700 (est. 2009); official language, Macedonian; capital, Skopje. Formerly a constituent republic of Yugoslavia, Macedonia became independent after a referendum in 1991; and
  2. a region in the north-east of modern Greece; capital, Thessaloníki.
7d   Silent, moving // bodies of water (6)

INLETS* — anagram (moving) of SILENT

8d   Salad ingredient // in tempura dishes (6)

RADISH — hidden in (in) tempuRA DISHes

12d   Doctor // got Leon Uris upset (11)

NEUROLOGIST* — anagram (upset) of GOT LEON URIS

Scratching the Surface
Leon Uris[5] (1924–2003) was a US writer whose works include Battle Cry (1953), Exodus (1958), QB VII (1970), Trinity (1976), The Haj (1984), and Redemption (1995).

15d   Emily imitating dogs // getting on board (9)

EM|BARKING — EM ([diminutive for] Emily) + BARKING (imitating dogs)

16d   Niagara spilled around middle of acres // for farming (8)

AG(R)ARIAN* or AGRA(R)IAN* — anagram (spilled) of NIAGARA containing (around) {middle of acres; middle letter of acRes}

17d   Published copies /of/ Treason, with the intro moved to the back (8)

[_]EDITION[S] — [S]EDITION (treason) with the initial letter (intro) removed and placed at the end (moved to the back)

19d   Paint // name inside Chicago train (6)

E[NAME]L — NAME (†) contained in (inside) EL (Chicago train)

El[5] is a US term for (1) an elevated railroad (especially that in Chicago) or (2) a train running on an elevated railroad. [Although this definition comes from a British dictionary, I thought it would be apropos to replace the British railway with the American railroad]

20d   Lively wit // disturbed priest (6)

ESPRIT* — anagram (disturbed) of PRIEST

23d   In April, Keats /is/ a poet (5)

_RIL|KE_ — hidden in (in) ApRIL KEats

Maria Rainer Rilke[5] (1875–1926) was an Austrian poet, born in Bohemia; pseudonym of René Karl Wilhelm Josef Maria Rilke. His conception of art as a quasi-religious vocation culminated in his best-known works, the Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus (both 1923).


The title of today's piece was inspired by 1a and 27a.
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. Very gentle - almost a read and write today. Can't discern a favourite clue, would opt for 10A if pushed. .5 / 2 rating

  2. Well Smaug, I'm impressed. I found a number took a few times to read before they gave up the answer (18a, 22a, 26a, e.g.). Nothing was particularly tough, but overall, a good puzzle where I needed to tickle the little grey cells. And, could 15d be a self-referential clue from the setters?

  3. Hello fellow cyptic solvers,
    I also found the puzzle to be pretty gentle. The only clue I had trouble with was understanding the wordplay for 17d. Learned a new word...

  4. Probably a "pride goeth before a fall" puzzle for me, as I found it very easy. For anyone wanting a little more brain racking, I recommend the latest cryptic from the Wall Street Journal:

  5. Thank you to everyone for your contributions. The blog is called a "Forum" for a reason. So, hopefully, more readers will follow your lead and share their thoughts with us.