Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday, July 25, 2015 — Nonsense Verse


As I recall, I got off to a fairly fast start with today's puzzle from Cox & Rathvon but soon slowed down considerably. There are several references to obscure or unknown (to myself, at least) films and music. Fortunately, I was able to decipher the clues correctly even in the absence of any knowledge of them.

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   Self-driven // to eat, Maud reordered (9)

AUTOMATED* — anagram (reordered) of TO EAT MAUD

6a   Boast dancing // shoe of a sort (5)

SABOT* — anagram (dancing) of BOAST

9a   Scary noise inside box /in/ rearmost car (7)

CA(BOO)SE — BOO (scary noise) contained in (inside) CASE (box)

10a   Dirty player/’s/ cold, then warmer (7)

C|HEATER — C (cold) + (then) HEATER (warmer; noun, device that warms)

11a   Squeeze behind the front // part of a foot (4)

_INCH — [P]INCH (squeeze) with the initial letter removed (behind the front)

12a   Moonshine // party taking tree down (10)

B(ALDER|D)ASH — BASH (party) containing (taking) {ALDER (tree) + D (down)}

Moonshine[3] is an informal term for foolish talk or thought; in other words, nonsense.

14a   A job with the French // evangelist (7)

A|POST|LE — A (†) + POST (job) + (with) LE (the French; French word meaning 'the')

15a   No // fur seal swimming (7)

REFUSAL* —anagram (swimming) of FUR SEAL

17a   Beer // that’s disgusting consumed by rats (7)

DRA(UGH)T —UGH (that's disgusting [especially when followed by an exclamation mark!]) contained in (consumed by) DRAT (rats [again, when followed by an exclamation mark!])

20a   Plug // small movie about ghosts (7)

S|TOPPER — S (small; abbrev.) + TOPPER (movie about ghosts)

Topper[7] (1937) is an American comedy film starring Constance Bennett and Cary Grant which tells the story of a stuffy, stuck-in-his-ways man, Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) who is haunted by the ghosts of a fun-loving married couple. A TV movie remake, Topper (1979) was also produced starring Kate Jackson, Jack Warden and Andrew Stevens. In 1985, Topper was one of the first black-and-white films to be re-released in a colorized version.

22a   Write pitch about deal /for/ five-foot line (10)

PEN|TA(METE)R — PEN (write) + TAR (pitch) containing (about) METE (deal)

... a line of verse having five metrical feet.

23a   Run into pastry // cook too much (4)

BU(R)N — R (run; abbrev., baseball term) contained in (into) BUN (pastry)

25a   More annoying // runner caught by nobleman (7)

PE(SKI)ER — SKI (runner) contained in (caught by) PEER (nobleman)

26a   Vocal insult /is/ an act of deception (7)

SLEIGHT~ — sounds like (vocal) SLIGHT (insult)

27a   Discover // tip about start of race (5)

LEA(R)N — LEAN (tip) containing (about) R (start of race; initial letter of Race)

28a   Fellows beside a good Great Lake // zoo (9)

MEN|A|G|ERIE — MEN (fellows) + (beside) A (†) + G (good; abbrev., result on a test or assignment at school) + ERIE (Great Lake)


1d   Church entering a bawdy // guy’s name (9)

A|R(CH)IBALD — CH (church; abbrev.) contained in (entering) {A (†) + RIBALD (bawdy)}

2d   English explorer brought back company // product for smokers (7)

TOBAC<|CO — reversal (brought back) of CABOT (English explorer) + CO (company; abbrev.)

Cabot[5] is the name of two Italian explorers and navigators [although they were Italian, they worked in the service of England and (in the case of the son) Spain].
  • John Cabot (circa 1450-circa 1498); Italian name Giovanni Caboto. He sailed from Bristol in 1497 in search of Asia, but in fact landed on the mainland of North America, the first European to do so.
  • Sebastian Cabot (circa 1475–1557), son of John Cabot. Sebastian accompanied his father on his voyage in 1497 and made further voyages after the latter’s death, most notably to Brazil and the River Plate (1526).
The above entry from Oxford Dictionaries Online would appear to be inaccurate on at least one — and quite possibly — two counts.
  • The claim that Cabot was the first European to land on the mainland of North America is presumably alluding to the fact that Christopher Columbus landed on an island in the Caribbean and thus did not set foot on the mainland of North America. However, the officially accepted (though disputed) landing site for Cabot is Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland (also an island). Another proposed landing site is Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.
  • Even if we grant that Cabot may have landed at one of the other proposed sites (such as Labrador or Maine), he would still not be "the first European" to visit the mainland of North America. The Vikings were here five hundred years before him.
Scratching the Surface
The surface reading may allude to Sir Walter Raleigh[7], who is well known for popularising tobacco in England. Despite heading up a company of investors that attempted — with disastrous result — to establish a colony in Virginia, Raleigh himself never visited North America, although he led expeditions in 1595 and 1617 to the Orinoco River basin in South America in search of the golden city of El Dorado. Instead, he sent others to found the Roanoke Colony in Virginia, later known as the "Lost Colony".

3d   Feeling /of/ bad fate reversed (4)

MOOD< — reversal (reversed) of DOOM (bad fate)

4d   Adolescent // Gene ate bananas (7)

TEENAGER* — anagram (bananas) of GENE ATE

5d   Woodland creature eating fish // cracker? (7)

DE(COD)ER — DEER (woodland creature) containing (eating) COD (fish)

... one who cracks codes.

6d   Novel Nosferatu gains $1000 /for/ mystery writer (3,7)

{SUE GRAFTON}* — anagram (novel) of NOSFERATU containing G ($1000; grand, abbrev.)

Sue Grafton[7] is a contemporary American author of detective novels. She is best known as the author of the 'alphabet series' ("A" Is for Alibi, etc.) featuring private investigator Kinsey Millhone in the fictional city of Santa Teresa, California.

Scratching the Surface
Nosferatu[7] is a 1922 German Expressionist horror film, directed by F. W. Murnau, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Orlok.

The film, shot in 1921 and released in 1922, was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with names and other details changed because the studio could not obtain the rights to the novel (for instance, "vampire" became "Nosferatu" and "Count Dracula" became "Count Orlok"). Stoker's heirs sued over the adaptation, and a court ruling ordered that all copies of the film be destroyed. However, a few prints of Nosferatu survived, and the film came to be regarded as an influential masterpiece of cinema. As of 2015, it is Rotten Tomatoes' third best-reviewed horror film of all time.

7d   Gives away // bit of hope in wagers (7)

BET(RAY)S — RAY (bit of hope) contained in (in) BETS (wagers)

8d   Temple reading // to cheer (5)

TO/RAH — TO (†) + RAH (cheer)

In Judaism, the Torah[5] is the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures (known as the Pentateuch in the Christian Bible).

13d   Lack of progress // upset antagonist (10)

STAGNATION* — anagram (upset) of ANTAGONIST

16d   Producer Michaels still audited // spectacles (9)

LORGNETTE~ — sounds like (audited) {LORNE (producer Michaels) + YET (still)}

Lorne Michaels[5] (born Lorne Lipowitz) is a Canadian-American television producer, writer, comedian, and actor, best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live, as well as producing the Late Night series (since 1993) and The Tonight Show (since 2014).

A lorgnette[5] (also lorgnettes) is a pair of glasses or opera glasses held in front of a person’s eyes by a long handle at one side.

18d   Problem remembering // I am sane, strangely (7)

AMNESIA* — anagram (strangely) of I AM SANE

19d   Proposition // the “Stand” band about love (7)

THE(O)REM — {THE (†) + REM (“Stand” band)} containing (about) O (love; nil score in tennis)

"Stand"[7] is a song by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released as the second single from the album Green in 1989. The song quickly rose up the charts, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming R.E.M.'s second top 10 hit in the United States. The song reached number 48 on the UK Singles Charts. The song reached number 16 in Canada.

20d   Member of the family // walks forward (7)

STEPSON — STEPS (walks) + ON (forward)

21d   Air bag carried inside by // plumber’s helper (7)

P(LUNG)ER — LUNG (air bag) contained in (carried inside) PER (by)

Per[11] is a preposition meaning (especially in Latin phrases) by or through. For example, per capita[1] means by heads or for each person, per curiam[1] means by a court (of law), and per procurationem[1] means by the agency of (another).

22d   Dog I left /for/ student (5)

PUP|I|L — PUP (dog) + I (†) + L (left; abbrev.)

24d   Floating piece of ice /in/ town’s sound (4)

BERG~ —sounds like ('s sound; sound of) BURG (town)


The title of today's piece is inspired by 12a and 22a.
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. Some very clever clues. The answer to 21d seemed obvious, but the wordplay took some pondering. Last in was 26a, another head-scratcher.

    Favourite was 1d. A famous actor's original first name; second name Leach. Can't imagine why he changed it.

    1. ... and, coincidentally, this famous actor is the star of the film featured in the solution to 20a.

  2. Found this a trickier than the normal Saturday Emily and Henry puzzle. Favoured 5d, with honourable mention to the great anagram at 6d and 14a. 3/3 rating.

    1. I won't disagree with a 3/3 rating. After the first few clues were pretty much 'read & write', I was expecting a less challenging test. However, the setters soon turned it up a notch.

  3. Hi Falcon and everyone -
    I am certainly pleased that the Saturday fare from Emily and Henry continues the trend of a greater challenge. Take 22a for example. I was pretty sure I had the answer based on the length of the word, but it seemed, if it was a charade. to have too many clues, and if a double definition. to have too much in the middle. I was reading "Write pitch" as a frequency of writing (as in poetry) and of course, "five-foot line" as pretty much the same thing. Then the cryptic synonym for "write" hit me on the head, and well the rest quickly was 'decoded'.
    It's interesting that even though I might have the solution figured out or guessed, there is a cognitive dissonance if I can't quite parse the clue to fit the answer. Luckily I don't have to publish the solutions!

    1. Hi Henry,
      It has been known to happen that I think I understand how the clue works, only to find when I attempt to write out the explanation that something doesn't quite fit. Then it is a matter of erasing what has been written and going back to the drawing board.

  4. Hello Falcon et al,
    Definitely enjoyed this puzzle. I also was able to figure out the solutions without knowledge of a certain movie or author. With respect to the solution to 12a, I think the setters have given us a double cryptic here. Where Falcon has noted that moonshine can be an informal word for nonsense (which was news to me), the Oxford Dictionary states that balderdash "originally denoted a frothy liquid or an unappetizing mixture of drinks" which rather sounds like the moonshine that one might imbibe!

    1. Sorry - neglected to add my signature. :)

    2. Thank you for that interesting note on the origins of 'balderdash'. It definitely sounds less appetizing than moonshine.