Saturday, December 5, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015 — Weary Blues on Mean Streets


Peter has commented that he found today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon to be "Fairly straight- forward". While not as difficult as some we have seen recently, I thought it was far from being a write-in and did demand a good deal of mental exercise to complete.

There is a numeration error in the puzzle at 4d which caused me to beat my brains trying to raise some Italian film director with a name whose length surpassed even that of Michelangelo Antonioni. Once I had most of the checking letters in place, the solution popped to mind — quite possibly aided by the fact that this director also appeared in last week's puzzle (as Peter has noted).

As for 16a, I did a double take to verify that my eyes were not playing tricks on me before succumbing to a hearty chuckle.

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

Error in Today's Puzzle

The puzzle contains an error (which I see that Peter has also noticed per his comment below). The numeration in 4d is incorrect and the clue should read:
  • 4d Movie director cast minor actresses (6,8)

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   Over pound, one // deli item (8)

PAST|RAM|I — PAST (over) + RAM (pound) + I ([Roman numeral for] one)

5a   Prepares ears for cooking // nuts (6)

SHUCKS — double definition

Shucks[10] is an informal US and Canadian exclamation of disappointment, annoyance, etc.

10a   Hero’s lover // also wearing salacious look (7)

LE(AND)ER — AND (also) contained in (wearing) LEER (salacious look)

Hero and Leander[7] is the Greek myth relating the story of Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite who dwelt in a tower in Sestos on the European side of the Hellespont (show explanation ), and Leander, a young man from Abydos on the opposite side of the strait. Leander fell in love with Hero and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to guide his way.

Hellespont[5] is the ancient name for the Dardanelles, a narrow strait between Europe and Asiatic Turkey, linking the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean Sea. It is named after the legendary Helle, who fell into the strait and was drowned while escaping with her brother Phrixus from their stepmother, Ino, on a golden-fleeced ram.

hide explanation

Succumbing to Leander's soft words and to his argument that Venus, as the goddess of love, would scorn the worship of a virgin, Hero allowed him to become "special friends" with her. These trysts lasted through the warm summer. But one stormy winter night, the waves tossed Leander in the sea and the breezes blew out Hero's light; Leander lost his way and was drowned. When Hero saw his dead body, she threw herself over the edge of the tower to her death to be with him.

11a   NATO, for one // ally, interrupting morning (7)

A(CRONY)M — CRONY (ally) contained in (interrupting) AM (morning)

12a   Breaking // string before the sound of a bell (9)

VIOLA|TING — VIOLA (string; orchestral instrument) + (before) TING (the sound of a bell)

13a   Frequently // involved in Microsoft encounters (5)

_OFT|EN_ — hidden in (involved in) MicrosOFT ENcounters

14a   Cracked nut that is // free, in a way (5)

UNT*|IE — anagram (cracked) of NUT + IE (that is; id est, abbrev.)

16a   One dropping in announces // times for taking off (9)

S(A|TURD)AYS — A TURD (one dropping) contained in (in) SAYS (announces)

18a   Goal: // Reverend Spooner’s village in the Netherlands (9)

TOUCHDOWN —a spoonerism of DUTCH TOWN (village in the Netherlands)

A spoonerism[5] is a verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect, as in the sentence you have hissed the mystery lectures. It is named after the Reverend W. A. Spooner (1844–1930), an English scholar who reputedly made such errors in speaking.

20a   Like most Indians, back university (5)

HIND|U — HIND (back) + U (university; abbrev.)

Hinduism[5] is a major religious and cultural tradition of South Asia, which developed from Vedic religion. According to the 2011 census, 79.8% of the population of India practices Hinduism.[7]

Delving Deeper
Hinduism is practised primarily in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. It is a diverse family of devotional and ascetic cults and philosophical schools, all sharing a belief in reincarnation and involving the worship of one or more of a large pantheon of gods and goddesses, including Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu (incarnate as Rama and Krishna), Kali, Durga, Parvati, and Ganesh. Hindu society was traditionally based on a caste system.

21a   Whirl around park /and/ drive away (5)

RE(P)EL — REEL (whirl) containing (around) P (park; abbrev., on an automatic gear shift)

22a   Pigeon, drained, // was in a fight (9)

SQUAB|BLED — SQUAB (pigeon) + BLED (drained)

24a   Save a great many // pressed items (7)

BUT|TONS — BUT (save; with the exception of) + TONS (a great many)

These buttons would be found on an elevator, for example.

25a   Choke at weird // flapjack (7)

HOTCAKE* — anagram (weird) of CHOKE AT

Hotcake[10] is a US name for a pancake.

26a   Special ceremony, // being in a fairy tale (6)

SP|RITE — SP (special; abbrev.) + RITE (ceremony)

Being is used as a noun meaning creature.

27a   A call for help about top-rate // fireproof material (8)

A|S(BEST)OS — {A (†) + SOS (call for help)} containing (about) BEST (top-rate)


1d   Safe after European // Olympic event (4,5)

POLE| VAULT — VAULT (safe) following (after) POLE (European)

2d   International group /in/ Oates novel (5)

SEATO* — anagram (novel) of OATES

The acronym SEATO[5] stands for the South East Asia Treaty Organization, a defence alliance which existed between 1954 and 1977 for countries of southeast Asia and part of the southwest Pacific, to further a US policy of containing Communism. Its members were Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and the US.

Joyce Carol Oates[5] is a US writer. Her works include Bellefleur (1980), You Must Remember This (1988), Zombie (1995), Man Crazy (1997), Blonde (2000), and My Sister, My Love (2008).

3d   Cool— I devoured // spread (7)

RAD|I|ATE —RAD (cool; dated slang) + I (†) + ATE (devoured)

4d   Movie director // cast minor actresses (6,8) [incorrectly numerated (14) in the paper]


Martin Scorsese[5] is an American film director. Notable works: Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

6d   In 60 Minutes, bar doctored // port (7)

H(ARB*)OUR — anagram (doctored) of BAR contained in (in) HOUR (60 minutes)

Scratching the Surface
60 Minutes[7] is an American newsmagazine television program broadcast on the CBS television network.

7d   Work out after jailbirds // oblige (9)

CONS|TRAIN — TRAIN (work out) following (after) CONS (jailbirds)

Oblige is used in the sense of impose an obligation on rather than to do a favour for someone.

8d   Simple fellow/’s/ name in French is reversed (5)

{SI|MON}< — reversal (is reversed) of {NOM (name in French; French word meaning 'name') + IS (†)}

"Simple Simon"[7] is a popular English language nursery rhyme.

Delving Deeper
Simple Simon met a pieman,
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Let me taste your ware.
Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
Show me first your penny;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Indeed I have not any.
Simple Simon went a-fishing,
For to catch a whale;
All the water he had got,
Was in his mother's pail.
Simple Simon went to look
If plums grew on a thistle;
He pricked his fingers very much,
Which made poor Simon whistle.

9d   Poet, // changing song, then laughs (8,6)

{LANGSTON HUGHES}* — anagram (changing) of SONG THEN LAUGHS

Langston Hughes[5] (1902–1967) was an American writer. He began a prolific literary career with The Weary Blues (1926), a series of poems on black themes using blues and jazz rhythms. Other poetry collections include The Negro Mother (1931).

15d   Elephant at times // confused rut with bad temper (9)

TRU*|MPETER* — anagram (confused) of RUT + anagram (bad) of TEMPER

17d   Silent // a lot, except if given drink initially (9)

SO|UN(D)LESS — SO (a lot) + UNLESS (except) containing (if given) D (drink initially; initial letter of Drink)

"So" and "a lot" both mean "to a great extent". Typically, the former would be used prepositively (She so liked the gift) while the latter would be used postpositively (She liked the gift a lot).

19d   Offer // complete indecision in speech (4,3)

{HOLD OUT}~ — sounds like (in speech) WHOLE (complete) + DOUBT (indecision)

20d   Regular, // somewhat, in colour (7)

H(A|BIT)UE — {A BIT (somewhat)} contained in (in) HUE (colour)

21d   Puzzle // concerning public transportation (5)

RE|BUS — RE (concerning) + BUS (public transportation)

23d   Breaking plate, // jumped (5)

LEAPT* — anagram (breaking) of PLATE


The title of today's review is inspired by 9d and 4d.
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. Fairly straightforward today. 4d should have been broken into 6,8 and this is his second appearance in consecutive 16a. Speaking of 16a, I thought it was pretty funny. Thanks to C & R and thanks to Falcon for this site.

  2. Not bad today. But can't figure out 22A

  3. I really should have seen that - it was staring me right in the face!

  4. Good Saturday, Falcon, Peter and everyone!
    I'll never be able to look Saturday in the face again after today's puzzle. E&H certainly have been more inventive in the last weeks - adding to the difficulty factor and the sheer chutzpah of the clues. Started off the left side fairly easily, but was bogged on the right side for a while. Had a silent solution for 17d, but didn't want to put it in until I figured out the parsing. 4/3 for me this week.

  5. Nice x-word. Agree with Falcon - howled with laughter when I finally parsed out 16a - a classic, hopefully to become an old chestnut. Also enjoyed 1a. Broke my spoonerism maiden today, actually got it without checkers - a first for me!.
    3/3.5 for me

  6. I ran into some snags in this one.  It took me forever to catch on to 18A and a lot of playing around with the alphabet before 22A materialized (I'd been thinking of a pigeon as a dupe or sap).  Like Henry, I stared at 17D for a long time before I could parse it: I was determined not to come here until I had :)  Re: 16A - amusing juxtaposition with 20A.