Saturday, January 18, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

In the words of today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, 2-D, six letters, “‘Yikes!’” Today’s puzzle, by Greg Johnson, might be the most challenging Stumper I’ve ever solved (one hour, one minute, and eight seconds worth of difficulty). Only sixty-six words, and by my count, just three gimmes: 5-D, four letters, “Pub pals”; 36-A, five letters, “Small ensembles”; 52-A, eight letters, “Beverage company founded in China by Germans.” And right at the center, three stepped eleven-letter clues across, and three stepped eleven-letter clues down. 2-Down!

At many points I thought I’d never get this puzzle done. For instance, when I hit 24-D, seven letters, “Carrot classification.” The only ways I classify carrots: raw and cooked. Or orange and not-orange. I love the other colors, and I think they taste different. Do they, really?

But I digress.

Question-and-answer pairs that I especially admire in today’s puzzle:

1-A, six letters, “Lose coverage.” Haha. Very funny.

18-A, six letters, “Starts to drag.” Nice misdirection.

20-A, seven letters, “Cosmo feature.” I’ve seen this feature, but never in a crossword.

34-A, eleven letters, “Hospital’s overhead helpers.” A novel answer, at least in my crossword experience.

35-A, eleven letters, “Light-sensitive circuit board coating.” Eh, wot? See 24-D.

46-A, three letters, “Brown, e.g.” I always appreciate cryptic terseness, or terse crypticness.

And above all, 14-D, eleven letters, which must be one of the all-time evil clues, “Life form.”

Never no spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Stan Carey on the vocative comma

Editor and “swivel-chair linguist” Stan Carey explains the uses of the vocative comma: “Hello, vocative comma” (Macmillan Dictionary Blog).

After reading this column, I realized that I’ve been undermining the vocative comma for the past fifteen years. My post about how to e-mail a professor recommends beginning (in the absence of other instruction) with “Hi/Hello Professor [Blank].” No vocative comma. But as Carey’s column says, “In informal or unedited ­writing, the vocative comma is often skipped.”

I think that e-mail tends toward informality, enough so to omit the vocative comma. But not enough so to begin with, say, “Hey.”

“Good evening, news masochists”

[Cartoon of the Day, by Mort Gerberg. The New Yorker, January 16, 2020.]

I know this feeling. The problem: there isn’t a safe word.

“Some friends”

Dolly, as a ’toon, you should know how many “some” are.

Recently updated

“Close enough for jazz” Now with an added citation.

Thursday, January 16, 2020


The latest episode of the BBC Radio 4’s Soul Music is devoted to the Kinks’ “Days,” written by Ray Davies. I found it an especially difficult and moving episode. Proceed with caution.

In 2017, Soul Music devoted an episode to Davies’s “Waterloo Sunset.”

Here’s Davies in 2010 performing both songs, dedicated to the Kinks’ bassist Pete Quaife (1943–2010).

[Because this episode has a fan recounting a brother’s suicide, I’ll share some numbers. In the United Kingdom: Samaritans, 116 123. In the United States: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).]

Free Mac apps

From Macworld : thirty free Mac apps. They’re presented as a slideshow (click, click, click), but okay, they’re free. My favorites: Alfred, Simplenote, VLC.

Low Power Mode

Marco Arment makes the case for a Low Power Mode for MacBooks. Until that comes along, he recommends Turbo Boost Switcher, an app he first recommended in 2015.

I’ve been using Turbo Boost Switcher ever since reading Marco’s first recommendation. The app keeps the fans from roaring and keeps the computer from heating up. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Watching Rachel Maddow’s interview with Lev Parnas tonight makes undeniably clear, in just sixty minutes, that Donald Trump* and company have turned the executive branch of government into a criminal organization, dedicated not to the public good but to private gain, with anyone in the way considered an enemy, to be neutralized by whatever means avail. The sinks–toilets–showers shtick and other shticks are just the cheap shiny objects that keep the marks from wondering what’s happening behind the curtain.

There’s more coming tomorrow night.


Donald Trump*, in advance of signing his “deal” with China, acknowledging audience members Sheldon and Miriam Adelson: “They’re tremendous supporters of us and the Republican Party.” Us = me, not the country. It’s the presidential plural again. “I would like you to do us a favor though.”

A related post

[CNN and MSNBC have now cut to the House. Fox and OAN are sticking with Trump*.]