Saturday, April 9, 2016

Saturday, April 9, 2016 — The Games People Play


There are lots of games being played in today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon. Appropriately, with the baseball season opening this week, we have three MLB teams in action. It being playoff time in basketball, a team from the NBA is present. Although it is off season, we even have an NFL team. For those of a more cerebral bent, there is chess and for the younger set, a game of hide and seek. Alas, no NHL team is in action — either in the puzzle or anywhere else in Canada!

By the way, did you notice that today's puzzle is a pangram — a puzzle in which every letter of the alphabet appears at least once in the solutions? I usually fail to detect these but today I suspected early on that this might be one and that proved to be a great help in solving as I was on the lookout for a few key missing letters.

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   Seeker gripped by actual // truth (6)

VER(IT)Y — IT (seeker; a player in the children's game hide and seek who attempts to find the other players) contained in (gripped by) VERY (actual; the very dress she wore in her first film)

4a   Bills // observed Milwaukee's basketball team (8)

SAWBUCKS — SAW (observed) + BUCKS (Milwaukee's basketball team)

The Milwaukee Bucks[7] are an American professional basketball franchise based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bucks compete in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a member team of the Eastern Conference Central Division.

U.S. 1863 $10 bill
Sawbuck[7] is a slang term for a U.S. $10 bill [banknote to our British visitors], derived from the similarity between the shape of a sawbuck device* and the Roman numeral X (10), which formerly appeared on U.S. $10 bills.

I have never heard a Canadian $10 bill referred to as a sawbuck despite the apparent assertion to the contrary by British dictionaries[5,10].

* A sawbuck is a device for holding wood so that it may be cut into pieces. It consists of an "X" form at each end which are joined by cross bars below the intersections of the X's. The stock to be cut is placed in the V's formed above the intersections of the X's.

According to Wikipedia, In Canada and Britain, but not in the United States, a sawbuck is called a saw horse; a sawhorse in the United States is a similar device used (often in pairs) to support wood planks.

I'm not convinced that Wikipedia is correct. I would think that what is called a "sawbuck" in the US is known as a "sawhorse" in the UK and that what is called a "sawhorse" in the US may be known as a "trestle" in the UK. In Canada, I suspect that we may call either of these devices a "sawhorse". But that may be a regional usage or merely my own ignorance. It would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone who grew up wielding a bucksaw.
Scratching the Surface
I believe the surface reading is a reference to the Buffalo Bills[7], a professional American football team based in the Buffalo–Niagara Falls metropolitan area that competes in the National Football League (NFL). They are members of the league's East division of the American Football Conference (AFC).

The team plays their home games at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills are the only NFL team that plays its home games in New York State (The New York Giants and New York Jets play at MetLife Stadium, located in East Rutherford, New Jersey).

9a   Land in Africa /and/ talk further (5)

GAB|ON — GAB (talk) + ON (further)

Gabon[5] is an equatorial country in West Africa, on the Atlantic coast; population 1,515,000 (est. 2009); languages, French (official), West African languages; capital, Libreville. Gabon became a French territory in 1888. Part of French Equatorial Africa from 1910 to 1958, it became an independent republic in 1960.

10a   A phrase in Shakespeare /for/ "grinding place" (5,4)

W(A|TER M)ILL — {A (†) + TERM (phrase)} contained in (in) WILL ([William] Shakespeare; Will being a common diminutive for William that is frequently used in reference to English playwright William Shakespeare)

11a   Disallow support /for/ member of a bluegrass band (8)

BAN|JOIST — BAN (disallow) + JOIST (support)

12a   Drawn outside, chopper // proceeded along the tarmac (6)

T(AX)IED — TIED (drawn; equal outcome in a sports competition) containing (outside) AX (chopper; US spelling of axe)

14a   Element // none transmuted (4)

NEON* — anagram (transmuted) of NONE

Neon[5] (symbol Ne) is the chemical element of atomic number 10, an inert gaseous element of the noble gas group. It is obtained by the distillation of liquid air and is used in fluorescent lamps and illuminated advertising signs.

Scratching the Surface
Transmute[5] means to subject (base metals) to alchemical transmutation ⇒ the quest to transmute lead into gold.

Neon, being inert, in all likelihood is not transmutable. Come to think of it, I don't think alchemists ever succeeded in transmuting anything into gold.

15a   Craftily gets // old horse among record holders (8)

FI(NAG)LES — NAG (old horse) contained in (among) FILES (record holders)

19a   False belief // strangely unsoiled (8)

DELUSION* — anagram (strangely) of UNSOILED

20a   Bluish-green hue // observed amid seaquake (4)

_AQUA_ — hidden in (observed amid) seAQUAke

23a   Spiritual path hit new // peak (6)

ZEN|ITH* —ZEN (spiritual path) + anagram (new) of HIT

Zen[10] is a Japanese school, of 12th-century Chinese origin, teaching that contemplation of one's essential nature to the exclusion of all else is the only way of achieving [or, in other words, path to] pure enlightenment.

25a   Piece broken off church bench by a // First Nations person (8)

CHIP|PEW|A — CHIP (piece broken off) + PEW (church bench) + (by) A (†)

Chippewa[5] is another name for the Ojibwa[5], an American Indian people inhabiting a wide area around Lake Superior.

27a   Blue // reel given a spin in board game (9)

CHE(ERLE*)SS or CH(EERL*)ESS — anagram (given a spin) of REEL contained in (in) CHESS (board game)

28a   Losing face, top Cuban // baseball player in Houston (5)

_ASTRO — [C]ASTRO (top Cuban) with the initial letter removed (losing face)

Fidel Castro[5] is a Cuban statesman, prime minister 1959–76 and president 1976–2008. After overthrowing President Batista he set up a communist regime which survived the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. In 2008 he stood down in favour of his brother Raúl Castro.

The Houston Astros[7] are an American professional baseball team located in Houston, Texas. The Astros are members of the American League (AL) West division in Major League Baseball (MLB), having moved to the division in 2013 after spending their first 51 seasons in the National League (NL).

29a   Watch object // boiling (8)

SEE|THING — SEE (watch) + THING (object)

30a   Angel /and/ Cub interrupted by that woman (6)

C(HER)UB — CUB (†) containing (interrupted by) HER (that woman)

Scratching the Surface
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim[7] are an American professional baseball team based in Anaheim, California. The Angels compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) West division.

The Chicago Cubs[7] are an American professional baseball team located on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division; the team plays its home games at Wrigley Field.
Delving Deeper
There is a — likely coincidental — link between the Angels and the Cubs.

The "Angels" name was continued by former film star Gene Autry out of tribute for the Los Angeles Angels, a Minor League franchise in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), which played in South Central Los Angeles from 1903 to 1957. The current Major League franchise was established as an expansion team in 1961 by Autry, the team's first owner, who bought the rights to the Angels name from Walter O'Malley, the former Los Angeles Dodgers owner, who acquired the PCL franchise from Philip K. Wrigley, the owner of the Chicago Cubs at the time.


1d   Link behind victory and a Georgia // bum (8)

V|A|GA|BOND — BOND (link) following (after) {V (victory; hand sign famously associated with British wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill) + A (†) + GA (Georgia; abbrev.)}

2d   Legendary outlaw/'s/ plunder in area nearby (5,4)

ROBIN HOOD — ROB (plunder) + IN (†) + HOOD (area nearby)

Hood[5] is an informal, chiefly US term for a neighbourhood, especially one in an urban area.

Robin Hood[5] was a semi-legendary English medieval outlaw, reputed to have robbed the rich and helped the poor. Although he is generally associated with Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, it seems likely that the real Robin Hood operated in Yorkshire in the early 13th century.

3d   After ten, put on // tough band (6)

TEN|DON — DON (put on) following (after) TEN (†)

5d   Opposed to // treatment of Tina (4)

ANTI* — anagram (treatment of) TINA

6d   Salt found inside plain // marine creature (8)

BAR(NACL)E — NACL ([chemical symbol (NaCl) for table salt (sodium chloride)] contained in (found inside) BARE (plain)

7d   Food that's hot on the tongue /and/ cold in the mouth? (5)

CHILI~ — sounds like (in the mouth) CHILLY (cold)

8d   Shapes // true tops (6)

SO|LIDS — SO (true; believe me, it's so) + LIDS (tops)

10d   Slightest // wit absorbing undercover agents (8)

WI(SPIES)T — WIT (†) containing (absorbing) SPIES (undercover agents)

13d   Goal: changing the woman's // footwear (8)

GALO|SHES — anagram (changing) of GOAL + SHE (woman) + S ('s)

16d   South Pole's last seeker // set off alone (9)

S|E|QUESTER — S (south; abbrev.) + E (Pole's last; final letter of PolE) + QUESTER (seeker)

17d   Ralph cut loose // a Greek historian (8)

PLUTARCH* — anagram (loose) of RALPH CUT

Plutarch[5] (circa 46-circa 120) was a Greek biographer and philosopher; Latin name Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus. He is chiefly known for Parallel Lives, a collection of biographies of prominent Greeks and Romans.

18d   100 visiting area search // underground vault (8)

C|AT|A|COMB —C([Roman numeral for] 100) + AT (visiting; a day at the zoo) + A (area; abbrev.) + COMB (search)

21d   Oral examinations /for/ some Prague residents (6)

CZECHS~ — sounds like (oral) CHECKS (examinations)

22d   Display // Spanish whip (6)

SP|LASH — SP (Spanish; abbrev.) + LASH (whip)

24d   Relative /of/ England's leader in Nice (5)

NI(E)CE — E (England's leader [initial letter]) contained in (in) NICE (†)

Scratching the Surface
Nice[5] is a resort city on the French Riviera, near the border with Italy; population 348,721 (2007).

26d   Thin, // meandering lane (4)

LEAN* — anagram (meandering) of LANE


The title of today's review is inspired by 1a, 4a, 27a, 28a and 30a.
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. Enjoyed this one. 23a gave me some difficulty because I misinterpreted 21d to mean the verb rather than the proper noun, which changed the first letter of 23a. I also had trouble with 12a.

    1. I'm so glad I wasn't the only one to make that mistake on 21d.

      12a was difficult for me as I always spell the inner word with 3 letters.

  2. Hello Falcon et al,
    I also enjoyed today's puzzle. Last one in was 1A. Still not sure how to interpret seeker but will wait for Falcon's insights.

  3. Still can't solve 1a. I think I have the word, but can't make the wordplay fit.

    9a is a repeat, and I suspect 11a is too, clever as it is.

    15a and 13d were my faves.

    1. Hi Chris,

      I think you're right about 9a and 11a. And 10a is a repeat too.


  4. Hint for 1a to MG and Chris Cudmore:

    In the childrens' game of hide and seek, what name is given to the player who has the task of seeking out the hidden players?

    1. That's exactly what I suspected it would be. Thanks for clearing it up.

  5. For homonyms, like 21d I have always understood that the correct term is the one where the clue is farthest from the homonym tip off. In this case the word "oral".

    I couldn't parse 1a either until I read the review.

  6. Hi there co-cryptologists! ( I almost said fellow cryptologists but then I wanted to be PC!) Cold in Mississauga and around the 'hood', as in How far did we Spring forward?
    I mowed through most of the puzzle and then came to a crashing halt, although that may be more of a function that I had just finished a large weekend meal. and it was catching up to me. When I came to, I finished it off - was stuck on 12a, 10a and a few others. And Falcon, I did notice it was a pangram, especially after noticing a plethora of rarely seen letters. And I thought for sure, Falcon you might have mentioned Quidditch, what with seekers everywhere.

    1. Henry,

      Quidditch ... I have many vices but I am afraid that Harry Potter is not among them.

  7. Hi Everyone,

    Czeching in late for this one. Was out of town and didn't return to London until late this aft. And of course it's snowing again. A lot!!

    I enjoyed this puzzle but I, too, had trouble parsing 1a. And I needed help parsing 4a. Thanks for the explanations Falcon. My favourites were 16d, 17d and 18d. Whenever I see a 'q' and a 'z' in a puzzle I look for the pangram.

    Thanks to Falcon and C & R.


  8. A nice fun puzzle. Surprisingly recalled the Greek historian from very deep recesses: Enjoyed 15a and 13D. Rated 3/3.5. Thanks to E&H and Falcon for the review.