Monday, June 21, 2010

NYT Tuesday 6/22/10 - Spooky

This Tuesday New York Times crossword is a nice straightforward idea that would have befitted a Monday, I think. Certainly it took me no longer than yesterday's and there's actually rather less to write about by way of explanation today.

I've never to my knowledge played the game called Ghost, but every book on word games I've got seems to reference it. Apparently Randall Munroe has gone to the trouble of working out a winning strategy based on the dictionary that ships with Ubuntu: it’s a win for the first player, but only if he plays H, J, M, or Z; the other letters are all wins for the second player (I hear if you use the Scrabble wordlist, it’s always a win for the second player). For details, see this post on Randall's xkcd blog.

I've always been more interested in another sense of ghost in a similar context: the ghost words that came into existence as a result of misprints in dictionaries or mistakes in literary works that get perpetuated. My favorite in the latter category is the slughorn, ostensibly a kind of battle trumpet. It originated in an error by Thomas Chatterton, whose verses inspired Robert Browning to reuse the coinage. J. K. Rowling may share a fascination in this history, as she used the word for the surname of a character, viz Horace Slughorn.

In the old days, misprints and mistakes in dictionaries acted as a fairly reliable way for publishers of the same to track plagiarism of their work (usually I gather for reasons of amusement and one-upmanship and not with any intention of legal proceedings). Now that computers have made dictionaries well-nigh perfect, it seems publishers are having to add deliberate mistakes to catch out the word-thieves: esquivalience, for example, is a ghost word intentionally inserted into the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) to protect the copyright of the publication. It has now been so widely publicized (in e.g. this New Yorker article) that esquivalience may become a permanent part of the language.

Also apropros of ghosts, we've been enjoying tackling a "puzzle suite" called Ghost in the Machine by Andrew Feist, which I learned about through the auspices of Ryan and Brian's crossword blog. We're confident of having solved four out of the eight mini-puzzles now and have solid ideas on the remaining ones, just not had time to finish them yet.
Solving time: 5 mins (solo, no solving aids)
Clue of the puzz: 19d umps {Stereotypically "blind" officials}

Barry C. Silk
Grid art by Sympathy [about the grid colors]


Phrases whose first word can follow 36a Ghost {Word game ... or a word that can precede the starts of 18-, 26-, 43- and 54-Across}.
18a town-council {Governing body of a municipality} cf ghost town
26a Ship Of Fools {1965 Vivien Leigh movie} cf ghost ship
43a Buster Brown {Old comics boy with the dog Tige} cf ghost buster
54a story-teller {Center of attention around a campfire, say} cf ghost story
Crucimetrics [about Crucimetrics]
CompilersBarry C. Silk / Will Shortz
Grid15x15 with 36 (16.0%) black squares
Answers76 (average length 4.97)
Theme squares49 (25.9%)
Scrabble points328 (average 1.74)
Video of the Day

4a Lassie {Female TV dog played by males}. The Video of the Day might have been The Allman Brothers Band, but a Cruciverbal Canine has trumped them. Lassie is a fictional collie dog character and a stage name for several dog actors. The fictional character was created by Eric Knight in a short story expanded to novel length called Lassie Come-Home. Published in 1940, the novel was filmed by MGM in 1943 as Lassie Come Home (see trailer above) with a talented dog named Pal playing Lassie. Pal then appeared with the stage name "Lassie" in six other MGM feature films through 1951. Pal's owner and trainer Rudd Weatherwax then acquired the Lassie name and trademark from MGM and appeared with Pal (as "Lassie") at rodeos, fairs, and similar events across America in the early 1950s. In 1954, the long running, Emmy-winning television series Lassie debuted, and, over the next 19 years, a succession of Pal's descendants appeared on the series. The "Lassie" character has appeared in radio, television, film, toys, comic books, animated series, juvenile novels, and other media. Pal's descendants continue to play Lassie today. All the dog actors in the television series were male because male collies retain a thicker summer coat than females, which "looks better on television." Also, the male is larger and a child actor can play opposite the dog for longer before outgrowing him.

The Doctor is IN

15a Elaine {Sitcom pal of 46-Down}; 46d Jerry {Former boyfriend of 15-Across}. Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld) on Seinfeld.

52d Odie {Occasionally punted comics canine}. Garfield kicking Odie (another Cruciverbal Canine) seems to be a running gag in the strip.

Image of the Day

lamb souvlakia

1d lamb {Souvlaki meat}. Souvlaki (Greek: Σουβλάκι) or souvlakia is a popular Greek fast food consisting of small pieces of meat and sometimes vegetables grilled on a skewer. It may be served on the skewer for eating out of hand, in a pita sandwich with garnishes and sauces, or on a dinner plate, often with fried potatoes or pilaf. The meat is traditionally lamb in Greece and Cyprus, or in modern times increasingly pork due to the lower cost. In other countries and for tourists, souvlaki may be made with other meats such as beef, chicken and sometimes fish (especially swordfish). The word souvlaki is a diminutive of souvla (skewer), itself cognate with the Latin subula.

Other Clues

1a lip {Fresh talk}; 10a zeds {Alphabet enders, to Brits}; 14a aka {Letters on a wanted poster}; 16a Otoe {Plains Indians}; 17a mew {Kitten call}; 20a banditos {South-of-the-border outlaws}; 22a Mehta {Conductor Zubin}; 23a ten of {12:50 or 1:50}; 24a SFPD {Bay Area law enforcement org.}; 29a PCs {Gateways or Dells, briefly}; 32a Macon {Georgia home of the Allman Brothers}; 33a RBI {Baseball Triple Crown stat}; 34a phat {Excellent, slangily}; 35a arks {Safe havens}; 38a -aire {Suffix for the wealthy}; 39a Skee {___-Ball (arcade game)}; 40a Lou {Rawls of R&B}; 41a oiler {Strait of Hormuz vessel}; 42a HST {"The buck stops here" prez}; 46a jute {Rope fiber}; 47a moves {Board game turns}; 48a ashes {Briquette residue}; 51a side door {Delivery entrance, maybe}; 57a PDA {Palm Treo, e.g.}; 58a Kerr {Deborah of "The King and I"}; 59a stains {Deck treatments}; 60a hip {Often-replaced joint}; 61a sway {Swing in the breeze}; 62a peyote {Hallucinogen-yielding cactus}; 63a yet {To this point}.

2d Ikea {Swedish home furnishings chain}; 3d pawnticket {Hockshop receipt}; 4d let in on {Make privy to, as a secret}; 5d a lot of {Many}; 6d saw off {Remove, as a branch}; 7d sins {Confessional list}; 8d inc. {Abbr. in co. names}; 9d EEO {Fair-hiring letters}; 10d zoned {Like most urban land}; 11d etch {Impress deeply}; 12d do it {Two-thirds of D.I.Y.}; 13d Sela {Ward of "The Fugitive," 1993}; 19d umps {Stereotypically "blind" officials}; 21d depose {Topple from power}; 24d sobs {Cries out loud}; 25d flit {Move like a moth}; 26d smash {Box-office hit}; 27d harks {Pays attention}; 28d or out {"Are you in ___?"}; 29d philosophy {Field of Plato and Aristotle}; 30d Carew {Rod with seven batting championships}; 31d Stern {Howard of satellite radio}; 34d paired {Like sorted socks}; 36d glut {Market surplus}; 37d hose {Nozzle site}; 41d obverse {"Heads" side of a coin}; 43d busy {At it}; 44d Emilio {The Brat Pack's Estevez}; 45d rodent {Porcupine or gopher}; 48d asks {Queries}; 49d stew {Ratatouille or ragout}; 50d hora {Bar mitzvah dance}; 51d slay {Leave in stitches}; 53d rapt {Totally absorbed}; 55d tsp. {Dose amt.}; 56d été {Summer on the Seine}.


Daniel Myers said...

Very comprehensive derivation of Souvlaki, Ross. I'm surprised you didn't manage to work in some English words that arise from that Latin cognate, such as "subulate" or the old, poetic "subulon". Then again, cognates are always dicey things to play around with.:-)

Crossword Man said...

That all came from Wikipedia. I'm a bit too tired to think about cognates at 11pm at night! :-)