The Los Angeles Times online crossword is easier than the New York Times’. It also has a faultless interface that never falters, making speed part of the experience and leading to my daily back-and-forth e-mail with Eric Zorn; if you can beat 7:23, you can beat me today. (Late-breaking reply from Eric: You’ll have to squeak in under 6:38 to beat him.) I’ll give you a 20-second head start if you’ve never done the LAT puzzle; puzzles have their own underlying logic and favorite wores, and it takes a few run-throughs to get the hang of a new editor. I frequently think that Uma Thurman will live forever, along with Nick and Nora’s dog Asta, for having a short first name that’s mostly vowels: 42 across: She killed Bill.

The NYT crossword is more difficult and has a suckworthy online interface. I figure if paying the outrageous monthly home-delivery price for the Times (59 tax-deductible dollars per, but still) qualifies me for anything, it should be a crossword experience to match that of its Tribune Media services competitor, but no — I had to download a craptastic Java applet, which was slow and stupid and didn’t work well. I tried the iPhone app for $1.99, but it’s also clunky, features only a few puzzles free and has the worst background music imaginable, yes, worse than Scrabble.

Also, maybe someone could enlighten me: We all know Will Shortz is editor of the NYT crossword, but what’s involved with “editing” a crossword puzzle? It either works or it doesn’t, right? Is he the one who tells the originator, “I think what you need here is an Uma Thurman clue,” or do people who sprinkle their puzzles with Uma, Asta and Oona just know he’s the one to sell them to?

Bonus fun fact for Hoosiers: Shortz is an IU grad. Degree is in “enigmatology,” the only known possessor of such a sheepskin, in a course of study he designed himself. Fun fact for all, via Wiki:

He says that his favorite crossword of all time is the Election Day crossword of November 5, 1996, designed by Jeremiah Farrell. It had two correct solutions with the same set of clues, one saying that the “Lead story in tomorrow’s newspaper (!)” would be “BOB DOLE ELECTED”, and the other correct solution saying “CLINTON ELECTED”.

I’ve had my problems with computer games in the past, but with the LAT crossword, I think they’re solved. It has a beginning, a middle, an end, and a crowing or cowering e-mail to mop up, and then I’m done. All my bad habits are now on the iPhone, encapsulated in one game (Wurdle, an electronic form of Boggle), and lo, it appears I am not alone. Fortunately, I can leave my phone on another floor and get some work done.

Which I should go and do now. I was out and about all day yesterday and short on the bloggage, but you shouldn’t have to do bloggage on the day Sarah Palin appears on Oprah. Sounds like she did her usual. Let’s all say it together: Poor, poor bunny rabbit. Everyone is so mean to you! You thought Katie Couric would be just another mom, talkin’ teenagers and the gray hairs they give ya. But no.

You should have plenty to bat around today. Thanks for that sweet potato recipe, Mary — I think I’m going to be making that one this year. The week should ease up considerably by tomorrow. I’ll have more of my head in this game then.

Posted at 10:54 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

39 responses to “Puzzlers.”

  1. jcburns said on November 17, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I think you know puzzles are a lot less binary than you’re depicting…a puzzle editor picks people, wheedles them into making deadlines, points out errors, bluepencils the misspelled cultural references, and when one of those misspellings is in the answer to a clue, well, then he helps hold the house of cards up as the offending clue is repaired.

    The thing that puzzles me is that Shortz is (seems like I’ve seen) a Mac guy, therefore (by scientific commutative principles I wouldn’t want to explain) he would support simple, clean, well-designed standards-based apps and webpages. He must have lost some political battle with old-school Javaheads somewhere.

    664 chars

  2. brian stouder said on November 17, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight, today, is betting that Governor Palin will run for and win the GOP nomination for the presidency in 2012, and given his keen eye and well-grounded suppositions, that gets my attention.

    “Whatever”, eh?

    Spent the morning at Towles Montessori in Shelby’s class; and they have something called ‘pop-talk’ wherein the whole class sits in a circle and, one at a time, anyone who has anything to say gets their inning. One kid talked about what he had for supper, and another about how well he did in an X-Box football game, and another expressed surprise at how cold it was – and several sat quietly, taking it all in;

    and it hit me that this was precisely what we do here each day

    721 chars

  3. jcburns said on November 17, 2009 at 11:45 am

    What the? The Detroit Daily Press? You’re living in a newspaper growth market, Nance?

    183 chars

  4. LAMary said on November 17, 2009 at 11:56 am

    If you’re going to use my recipe, consider adding a sprinkle of brown sugar if you like things sweeter. Cinnamon is an option as well. I like it more on the savory side myself.

    176 chars

  5. Julie Robinson said on November 17, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Mary’s recipe will be on our table this year too. We make a similar main dish all year round, with sausage, only it uses water and cinnamon sugar. It can only get better with cider.

    I made a favorite new soup recipe last night, with white beans, brown rice, garlic & onion; then spinach stirred in at the last minute and topped with Asiago cheese. It paired perfectly with BLT’s with the almost last of the garden tomatoes. Is is too soon for lunch yet?

    466 chars

  6. Peter said on November 17, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    OK, I have to kvetch about Our Lady of Wasilla.

    Her story is that she was flummoxed during the Couric interview because she (Sarah) thought that being asked what newspapers or books she reads was a condescending question, and that perky Katie was implying that Alaskans live in caves and don’t read.

    Well, who you crappin’, bitch! People are asked all the time about what they read – it offers, wait, why am I explaining it? It’s not like that snow slut reads this site, and everyone on this site knows what I’m talking about. Even W and Evil Dick Cheney regularly posted what they read!

    A recent poll said that 70% of Americans don’t think she’s qualified to be president. WTF about the other 30%! I wonder what percentage of the people who said she was qualified figure that if W can do it, she ought to be able to?


    847 chars

  7. Jeff Borden said on November 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm


    As batshit insane as so many conservatives are today, I still have a hard time figuring out how Our Lady from Wasilla gets the nod. She’ll get the 25% who get their information from Fox, Rush, Beck and the other bully boys, but she still carries enormous negatives among independents and they swing elections.

    The GOPers have a very unappealing field at the moment. The Christianists are never going to embrace Multiple Choice Mitt. Huckabee seems an appealing candidate –if you don’t listen to his viewpoint– but I can’t see him attracting the big money donors needed to compete with Romney. The so-called young generation looks pretty weak in Pandering Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindal. Palin, in contrast, draws crowds and lots of cash, but she clearly despises the actual job of governing.

    I think Madame Musher will not run because she already has everything she wants, namely, wealth and fame. She can reap millions, stay in the biggest suites, fly first-class or private jet, suckle at the teat of wingnut welfare and make six-figures spouting gibberish. It’s telling to me that she continually refers to elected office as a “title.” She digs the trappings of office, but not the hard work.

    The Oprah gig worked perfectly for both women. Oprah repaired her rep with conservatives who hated her stumping for Obama and she can boast of the first “get” on a hot personality. La Palin got an enormous boost for her book. There was some news, though with St. Sarah changing her mind is always a possibility, when she seemed to dismiss any plans for 2012. Otherwise, one fluffball after another.

    This wasn’t as bad as Oprah’s sitdown with Michael Jackson, which was painful to watch as she gingerly avoided asking him any questions that might elicit real information. When MJ said he had a skin disease and thus wore makeup, I kept waiting for Ope to say, ‘Why use white makeup?’ It was never asked.

    1921 chars

  8. Sue said on November 17, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Peter, are you from Chicago, do you listen to The Score?
    Sarah’s interview was perfectly adequate for a celebrity, not so much for a politician. Trouble is, besides the “I quit so I can work even harder for YOU”, she refuses to admit that she is either. I did like the “Perky One” comment, but if that’s going to work for her she needs to add a bio of Alice Roosevelt to her reading list.
    Here’s something for Sarah’s friends and foes alike:

    485 chars

  9. Jeff Borden said on November 17, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Mike Luckovich is an absolute genius. I was terribly disappointed when the Chicago Tribune hired the below average Scott Stantis. I don’t mind conservative cartoonists –Michael Ramirez is terrifc– but Stantis is the worst kind of cartoonist. Boring. Plus, they added his dumb daily cartoon strip, Prickly City, which is less strident than Mallard Fillmore and, hence, boring.

    I listen to 670-AM a lot, Sue. Who you crappin’ is always funny.

    Regarding Sarah Palin, it is funny that someone who fashioned the persona of a tough frontierswoman capable of field dressing a moose is so bothered by criticism. Perhaps she is genuinely delusional. The McCain camp is releasing e-mails that directly contradict her statements. She has changed her stories numerous times in the brief time she has been on the public stage on everything from how she learned she was pregnant with No. 5 to whether she discussed the veep nomination with her children.

    Accomplished liars can beat lie detector machines. I bet she is one who could do it.

    1036 chars

  10. Jeff Borden said on November 17, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Hey, did anyone else read about the hilarious goings on at a Minneapolis tea party event? A young smart aleck took the stage and began an anti-immigration rant to great cheers. But after a few minutes, even the goobers in the crowd realized they’d been had as the speaker was calling for the expulsion of white, European immigrants. He ended his time shouting “Columbus go home!”

    This, I think, is the proper way to respond to the loons. I used to think the most humiliating experience members of the KKK could have at one of their pathetic marches would be people pointing and laughing, rather than shouting the kind of ugly threats the Klan loves to hear. What could be worse for your pride, your sense of self, than being laughed at by the very people you seek to enrage. Lefties ought to start doing this more frequently. When another empty-headed tea party follower starts yelling, start laughing.

    905 chars

  11. Julie Robinson said on November 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    May I just say that our daughter is named Sarah and it really bothers me that a good name is besmirched by Palin. She’ll be here in two days and I’m sure some people I know will be in that line, such as the Kelty wingnuts and the homeschoolers. Who are often one and the same.

    278 chars

  12. moe99 said on November 17, 2009 at 1:57 pm


    Uncle Jay explains the news.

    102 chars

  13. nancy said on November 17, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    I thought of that Cocoa Krispies immune-boosting thing yesterday, when I was cleaning my toilet. The bottle of toilet cleaner had this helpful label: KILLS FLU VIRUS. Isn’t that good to know? You won’t be getting the flu from licking the rim of your toilet.

    257 chars

  14. mark said on November 17, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Folks, the crowd at even the worst train wreck eventually goes home. Palin isn’t going to be on the ticket in ’12 and only the absence of any well-known, half-way acceptable republican keeps her name floating around in straw polls. Here’s another tip: Mike Huckabee isn’t going to be on the ticket either, even though he, too, shows up in the polls ahead of Palin. Jeff B. is correct in that the talked about candidates don’t offer much.

    If you want to worry about/talk about Palin (and you do, you do), then think about the fact she is 17 years younger than HRC. Palin isn’t dumb (show of hands for those who want to compare resumes/accomplishments with her), she’s just not competent to be president. But in 10 or 12 years, after accumulating lots of money and political chits, raising the kids, dropping her annoying ‘aw shucks’ approach and, maybe, learning something about the world….

    900 chars

  15. Scout said on November 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    No Mark, not even then. Because by then she will no longer have the only thing she has going for her right now – her looks. Why do people refuse to believe she has absolutely no interest in governance? She’s just riding this gravy train for every last drop she can squeeze out of it. And yeah, compared to her, I can’t say as I compete. Nor would I want to be measured by her yardstick. I am a little miffed, however, that I will never be as smart and accomplished as Rachel Maddow.

    488 chars

  16. judybusy said on November 17, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Scout, what you said about Ms. Maddow. Ms. Palin can’t even string together a coherent sentence. I know with certainty I am a better speaker than she is.

    I also need to call out Peter on his language of “bitch” and “snow slut.” I dislike this woman’s politics and grandstanding, but using sexist epithats undermines your criticism.

    334 chars

  17. MarkH said on November 17, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Once again, (lower case) mark hits it out of the park. The only thing I would remotely disagree with is the insinuation in the trailing final sentence. I am more with Scout, and even more with David Brooks, who, completely fed up on Last Sunday’s “This Week”, labeled her a “future talk show host”. The “aw, shucks” approach will still be there, driving her through the public spotlight, just not into national public office. The republicans have a long way to go, but it’s nowhere Palin is leading them. It took me about 72 hours after the convention last year to become disillusioned; not with her, but with McCain and his minions, who were so cavalier about the VP choice.

    Folks, the public is, by and large, stupid, but not THAT stupid. Even the majority of the people that like her know better than to vote her into anything, let alone the presidency. And, she will always have that waning fringe that seems to scare many of you more than it should. But it is fun watching the creative writing contests she generates here at NN.C. I mean, Jeff B., I agree with much of what you say, but at some point doesn’t she become unworthy of the time and bandwidth?

    1165 chars

  18. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 17, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    May i point out that conservatives have been saying for decades, going back to WFB, that they’d rather be governed by a random hundred names in the Boston phone book than by a random hundred members of the Harvard faculty. In that spirit, Palinaphilia is, at least, consistent.

    Competent to govern — the more time you spend as a lobbyist in even a podunk state capital, the more you wonder what that concept even means. And that’s a truly bipartisan slam. Elected representatives rarely make for truly interesting dinner table conversationalists, and the ones that are tend to be one termers who move on to actually interesting work.

    Is Obama, or HRC, smarter than Palin? No doubt. Is she strikingly less intelligent and thoughtful than the bulk of the Senate, or of your average primary Presidential debate lineup? I still don’t see how anyone maintains that argument with a “yes.”

    But like Lamar Alexander, Phil Gramm, or Liddy Dole, she will most likely vanish by the final four in the 2012 race, just based on nothing more than past experience. Most of us have never heard of the person who will be the GOP candidate in 2012, and i’ll bet it’s someone even i only know as a name, not a bio.

    If you’d told me George W. Bush would win, twice, back in 1998, i would have known the name, but assumed it was the set up for a joke with a mildly crude punchline.

    (And there’s a set up for someone else’s punchline, to boot!)

    1444 chars

  19. Jeff Borden said on November 17, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Jeff TMMO,

    I will second your assertion that there are many members of Congress who are far less bright than Sarah from Alaska. It’s a especially true in the House, but even in the Senate, there are people who shouldn’t be allowed to operate a power lawnmower making our laws. Is there a bigger dumbass than James Imhofe of Oklahoma? Or David Vitter of Louisiana? Or James DeMint of South Carolina? These guys lower the IQ of a room by walking in.

    I also agree the GOP will field a candidate we don’t know well yet. (What you said about W. certainly could’ve been said about Obama, too.)

    The funny thing is that I wanted to vote for John McCain in 2000, but the debacle in South Caroline prevented his nomination. These days I feel a little pity, but mostly disappointment that he had to sell out his core values for the chance to win the nomination of a party and a movement that really didn’t even like him very much.

    928 chars

  20. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    (was that a “Mad Men” reference to the power mower?)

    I’d never heard of Obama that i could actually recall before the stunning, marvelous speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Thousands of us turned to our spouses and said “we’ll be hearing more from that guy, for sure.” But before that, outside of Altgeld Gardens, not so much.

    But i don’t think it’s going to be Doug Hoffman, either. Jindal, unlikely.

    Clinton i remembered vividly from getting applauded wildly at a long ago, youthful (for both of us) DNC when he finally said “and my last point . . .” to which i said to no one in particular, “that’s probably the end of his career.” But he went on Carson a few nights later, and flipped the faux pas brilliantly.

    746 chars

  21. Jeff Borden said on November 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm


    When I was bashing Bobby Jindal for his horrible response to the State of the Union, several people used Bill Clinton’s sonorous speech as an example of someone who made a poor first impression but recovered nicely.

    One last point on Sarah Palin that is not an original one but an echo of something I read recently: She may be the darling of the kind of folks who like Glenn Beck and believe Obama is a Muslim, but she has flipped off the GOP by her actions in the NY-23 race and in her assaults on the McCain team. The world of national politics is actually quite small. Our Lady of Wasilla has burned a large number of bridges and that will not be forgotten.

    672 chars

  22. Sue said on November 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Well, no, MMJeff, it’s not going to be Doug Hoffman, because he’s going to be too busy representing NY-23, justyouwaitandsee. Yet another bit of nonsense about to take on a life of its own.

    271 chars

  23. jcburns said on November 17, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Nance, look, fine writing tidbits from your favorite show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sgj78QG9Bg

    101 chars

  24. brian stouder said on November 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    moe – that was a funny link (Uncle Jay); all the funnier because suddenly this response made sense –

    I thought of that Cocoa Krispies immune-boosting thing yes­ter­day, when I was clean­ing my toi­let.

    and we won’t ask about the association between Cocoa Krispies and cleaning one’s commode!

    308 chars

  25. moe99 said on November 17, 2009 at 8:56 pm


    The wisdom of saving your emails…..if you were on the McCain campaign.

    162 chars

  26. MarkH said on November 17, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    My point exactly, Jeff Borden, most of the bridges have already been burned; the important ones anyway, among party honchos. Maybe even the important ones back home (constituents) in Alaska, if that’s where she decides to retreat after she doesn’t even come close to Jeff tmmo’s final four. We will have to deal with her as long as the media in general continues to be enamored of her. But that actually could be a good thing, as the state of her cavernous emptiness is increasingly exposed.

    491 chars

  27. brian stouder said on November 17, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    OK, newsies, maybe I’m just out of it, but I found the following to be – at best – disconcerting, and at worst – a bit of craven ghoulish sensationalism.

    A local sheriff’s deputy was killed in a car crash on duty, and today we see this:


    365 chars

  28. alex said on November 17, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Yo, foodies!

    What to do with a cayenne roux?

    Tonight I was making my famous Hungarian lentil soup. I crisped about a half pound of diced bacon, then in the drippings sauteed four magnificently large white onions into a pulp. Then threw in four heaping tablespoons of flour and began the arduous process of browning and scraping and adding liquid. And dumped a fair amount of what I thought was paprika into the mix.

    Then I noticed my jar of paprika sitting sealed up elsewhere and realized the red powder I’d been shaking so liberally was cayenne. And it’s hotter than the proverbial whore’s cooter in Texas.

    Right now re-making the roux with paprika and saving the otherwise perfect soup base for something else.

    Any suggestions?

    746 chars

  29. judybusy said on November 17, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Well, Alex, you could use it as soup base in small amounts. Do you think it would freeze? Cream-based soups would be best, of course. Or in Hungarian dishes that call for significant amounts of sour cream.

    205 chars

  30. alex said on November 17, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Haven’t tried freezing roux before, but it just went into the freezer a few minutes ago in a plastic box. We’ll find out, I guess. I’m thinking it might work for a gumbo, instead of okra and corn starch for thickening.

    Tonight’s batch of lentil was so-so, but it tends to get better after overnighting. It’s great morning fuel, actually, and so satisfying you can skip lunch. I’m not an orthodox breakfast eater. So long as I have something in my tummy I’m good to go.

    472 chars

  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on November 18, 2009 at 12:01 am

    A half pound of diced bacon? When you could have used the full pound?

    70 chars

  32. moe99 said on November 18, 2009 at 1:57 am

    MSNBC reports that Walmart has lowered the price of Going Rogue from $27 to $8.98.

    82 chars

  33. Dexter said on November 18, 2009 at 1:58 am

    Speculation mounts that Ken Ober may have died of sudden-onset pig flu.

    154 chars

  34. Dave K. said on November 18, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Vice-President Biden was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Tuesday night. I’m just watching now, after work. Before coming home I stopped at Wal-Mart to buy light bulbs, and passed the “Going Rogue” display. I did not slow down enough to notice the price, but they had row after row of Sarah’s smiling face.

    Listening to Stewart’s interview with Biden, all I could think was “Thank God this man is our Vice-President”.

    425 chars

  35. Jenflex said on November 18, 2009 at 10:03 am

    6:58 on the crossword! (I’m in my little happy, apolitical bubble at the moment.)

    82 chars

  36. mark said on November 18, 2009 at 11:01 am

    $14.50 according to the wal-mart website. http://www.walmart.com/catalog/catalog.gsp?cat=1057224
    Even bigger discounts on Stephen King and James Patterson.

    That would be $14.50 more than I’m getting for my book which, um, I don’t have. I’m sure the steep discounting is a sign that sales have flopped miserably in the 6 hours the book has been on sale, and not an advance marketing strategy to maximize sales of a not very interesting book by a celebrity of the day non-author.

    The Palin family must be despondent and the book tour will probably be cancelled.

    572 chars

  37. nancy said on November 18, 2009 at 11:04 am

    For once I’m in agreement with Mark. Haven’t you folks ever heard of a loss leader?

    83 chars

  38. LAMary said on November 18, 2009 at 11:16 am

    I’m waiting for the anime version of Going Rogue. Shouldn’t it be Goin’ Rogue?

    78 chars

  39. Eric Zorn said on November 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Gracious of you not to mention that you’ve been regularly kicking my ass lately. (And refusing to take the drug test I am demanding)

    132 chars