Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017 — X Marks the Spot


A mathematician might say that today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon is a bit of an unknown quantity.

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   Star in westerns from the early 1900s // to 2009 (3,3)

TO|M MIX —TO (†) + MMIX ([Roman numeral for] 2009)

Tom Mix[7] (1880–1940) was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies between 1909 and 1935. Mix appeared in 291 films, all but nine of which were silent movies. He was Hollywood's first Western megastar and helped define the genre as it emerged in the early days of the cinema.

4a   Pair of clowns liable to talk // nonsense (8)

CL|APT|RAP — CL (pair [initial two letters] of CLowns) + APT (liable) + RAP (to talk)

9a   Connection // essential to Kleenex usage (5)

_NEX|US_ — hidden in (essential to) KleeNEX USage

10a   Note story with a moral /that/ can be set right (9)

RE|PARABLE — RE ([musical] note; North American spelling of the second note of a major scale in tonic sol-fa) + PARABLE (story with a moral)

I have a bit of difficulty accepting that the word "reparable" is completely synonymous with the phrase "can be set right". It seems to me that one would have to say "is reparable" in order to interchange the two terms in a sentence (try it in the clue). Alternatively, one could replace "reparable" by "able to be set right". The only situation in which I can envision that the two terms might be direct replacements for each other would be in a table, for instance one showing the condition of failed devices in which the status might be recorded as either "reparable" or "can be set right".

11a   Demerol changed // form anew (7)

REMODEL* — anagram (changed of Demerol)

Scratching the Surface
Demerol[5] is a trademark for meperidine, a synthetic compound used as a painkilling drug, especially for women in labour.

12a   Certainly keeping ten of the Romans // alphabetically arranged (7)

INDE(X)ED — INDEED (certainly) containing (keeping) X (ten of the Romans; Roman numeral for 'ten')

13a   Cutters of wood /in/ drunken dazes (5)

ADZES* — anagram (drunken) of DAZES

14a   Copies // ring possessed by Persian king (7)

XER(O)XES — O ([letter that looks like a] ring) contained in (possessed by) XERXES (Persian king)

Xerxes I[5] (circa 519–465 BC), son of Darius I, was king of Persia 486–465. His invasion of Greece achieved victories in 480 at Artemisium and Thermopylae, but defeats at Salamis (480) and Plataea (479) forced him to withdraw.

18a   Dinner course occupying // old sultan (7)

SALAD|IN — SALAD (dinner course) + IN (occupying)

Saladin[5] (1137–1193) was a sultan of Egypt and Syria 1174–93; Arabic name Salah-ad-Din Yusuf ibn-Ayyub. Saladin reconquered Jerusalem from the Christians in 1187, but he was defeated by Richard the Lionheart at Arsuf (1191). He earned a reputation not only for military skill but also for honesty and chivalry.

20a   Peninsula // sign I read aloud (5)

SINAI~ —  sounds like (read aloud) SIGN I

Sinai[5] is an arid mountainous peninsula in northeastern Egypt, extending into the Red Sea between the Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba. It was occupied by Israel between 1967 and 1982. In the south is Mount Sinai, where, according to the Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments (Exod. 19–34).

22a   British queen’s keeping former spouse /in/ additional rooms (7)

ANN(EX)E|S — {ANNE (British queen) + S ('s)} containing (keeping) EX (former spouse)

Anne[7] (1665–1714) became Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain. She continued to reign as Queen of Great Britain and Ireland until her death.

25a   Bird // growing when eating first of worms (7)

WAX(W)ING — WAXING (growing) containing (when eating) W (first [letter] of Worms)

26a   Quit // playing, bad at dice (9)

ABDICATED* — anagram (playing) of BAD AT DICE

27a   Actor // in the role of Nero cut short (5)

AS|NER_ — AS (in the role of) + NER (NERO cut short; NER[O] with the final letter deleted)

Ed Asner[7] is an American actor, voice actor and a former president of the Screen Actors Guild. He is primarily known for his role as Lou Grant during the 1970s and early 1980s, on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off series Lou Grant, making him one of the few television actors to portray the same leading character in both a comedy and a drama.

28a   Desire // introduction to youth with an income (8)

Y|EARNING — Y (introduction [initial letter] to youth) + (with) EARNING (an income)

This is another clue that gave me some pause. I concluded that since "earning", being a gerund, can replace a noun, it must be intended to mean "an income". I did consider whether "earning" might possibly mean "with an income" (making it an adjective) but I could not justify that approach.

Actually, I believe that this clue would have worked far better had an extra letter been available:
  • Desires // introduction to youth with an income (9)
as EARNINGS is definitely a synonym for "an income".

29a   Be present for // a time before true finale (6)

A|T|TEND — A (†) + T (time; abbrev.) + T (true; abbrev.) + END (finale)

If one considers the solution to be an intransitive verb (rather than a transitive verb), one would parse this clue as:
  • Be present /for/ a time before true finale (6)


1d   Blasted on extra’s // horn (5,3)

{TENOR SAX}* — anagram (blasted) of ON EXTRAS

2d   Makes the most of // labyrinths including spot marker and one note (9)

MA(X|I|MI)ZES — MAZES (labyrinths) containing (including) {X (spot marker; X marks the spot) + (and) I ([Roman numeral for] one) + MI ([musical] note; North American spelling of the third note of a major scale in tonic sol-fa)}

3d   Denis is spilling // guts (7)

INSIDES* — anagram (spilling) of DENIS IS

5d   Italian painter /and/ Greek character after kiss (5)

LIP|PI — PI (Greek character; sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet) following (after) LIP (kiss)

Fra Filippo Lippi (c.1406–1469) was an Italian painter. He was a pupil of Masaccio, whose influence can be seen in the fresco The Relaxation of the Carmelite Rule (c.1432); his later style is more decorative and less monumental than his early work.

6d   Bovine behind endless march— // this makes no sense (7)

PARAD|OX — OX (bovine) following (behind) PARAD {endless march; PARAD[E] (march) with the final letter deleted (endless)}

7d   Speaker’s athletic shoes // put back in a crate (5)

REBOX~ — sounds like (speaker's; as spoken) REEBOKS ([brand of] athletic shoes)

8d   Makes a case for // pencil’s first pieces of graphite (6)

P|LEADS — P (pencil's first [letter]) + LEADS (pieces of graphite)

10d   Loose, // large chopping tool in grass (7)

RE(L|AX)ED — {L (large; abbrev.) + AX (chopping tool)} contained in (in) REED (grass)

15d   Ms. Russo made a match // updated (7)

RENE|WED — RENE (Ms. Russo; American actress Rene Russo[7]) + WED (made a match)

16d   Jail term interrupted by self // awareness (9)

SENT(I)ENCE — SENTENCE (jail term) containing (interrupted by) I (self)

17d   Named // Richard, the actor in Discovery (8)

FIN(GERE)D — GERE (Richard, the actor; American actor Richard Gere[7]) contained in (in) FIND (discovery)

19d   Reference // image of Luthor? (7)

LEX|ICON —an image of Luthor might otherwise be called a LEX (Luthor; Lex Luthor[7], archenemy of Superman) ICON (image)

20d   Second surviving // navigational aid (7)

S|EXTANT — S (second; abbrev.) + EXTANT (surviving)

21d   Group of stars // mirthful about Los Angeles Times (6)

GALAXY — GAY (mirthful) containing (about) {LA (Los Angeles; abbrev.} + X (times; multiplication sign)}

Scratching the Surface
The Los Angeles Times[7] is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008.

23d   Legendary gymnast/’s/ letters from Canadians (5)

_NADIA_ — hidden in (letters from) CaNADIAns

Nadia Comăneci[7] is a Romanian former gymnast who, at the age of 14 at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, became the first gymnast in Olympic history to be awarded the perfect score of 10.0. She would go on to receive six more perfect 10s in Montreal as well as three gold medals.

24d   Reposed in // glossy fabric (5)

SAT|IN — SAT (reposed) + IN (†)


The title of today's review, suggested by an anonymous commenter, is inspired by 2d and the 9 Xs found in the solutions to the puzzle.
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)
[12] - (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
Signing off for today — Falcon


  1. I guess the title for this one will be "X marks the spot"? An enjoyable puzzle for a very cold weekend in Ontario.

    1. Well, I can't do better than that!

  2. I enjoyed this one. Some difficulty, but nothing obscure. Had to Google wordplay only answers for 1a and 5d. Loved the wordplay on both of those, particularly the misdirection on kiss. 17d last in.

  3. If I am apt to rap about this one, I hope I won't get any lip! When every answer has an x, y, or z in it, it makes finding solutions a lot easier. I agree with Chris on the kiss misdirection. !7d and 27a last in for me. I think I have the right actors. Ed, can you help me out?

  4. Good morning,

    Despite counting 14 "cross words" I have no cross words about this crossword. It was 830 years ago that some Guy decided to cross swords with 18a. He was blasted at the Horns.

    I vote (x) to give this one 4* for enjoyment and 3* for difficulty because I was held up by the brilliant 1a.

    Very cold weekend indeed (no x).

    Thanks to C & R. Have a good day!


  5. Late to the party today. Nice after supper puzzle for a change.

    Lots of x's to be sure. I did have to get help with 5d.

    18a which I know must be some historical figure eludes me. Even Google does not help.

    I am also not sure about 1a. Does it involve MMIX?

    I will check back here before looking at Falcon's answers later. See if any of you clever people can put me on the right tracks.

    1. Hi Carl,

      Re 18a - look for a famous Muslim warlord who took Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

      Re 1a - you need a early 20th century movie star. You're right, the last four letters of the answer are MMIX. The first two letters are given in the clue. Split 3,3 you get his name.

      Hope this helps.


    2. Thanks Peter. After googling I see I did have 1a, just never heard of him.

      I should have had 18a as well. I was stuck on a "dinner course" that is "in" a word for old!

      It was quite a good puzzle!

  6. A panagram! Well done E&H. Enjoyable puzzle - 4/3 rating. Favoured 19D.

  7. Ah shoot - its not a panagram - no Q - blast

  8. This puzzle was so difficult that I gave up. No fun at all. Think Cox and Rathvon are turning into masochists.