Friday, March 21, 2014

Through 1947, Into 1946, and a Crossword Artifact

It's been another busy week, though the thermometer is moving up a bit more slowly now that we're litzing Sunday puzzles!  Saturday afternoon, Lynn Feigenbaum sent in 5 puzzles, then later that night, Mike Buckley sent in 7 more.  Sunday night, Todd Gross sent in 10 proofread puzzles, then early Monday morning, Barry Haldiman sent 8 litzed puzzles, which were followed by 4 more from Susan O'Brien that afternoon.  Early Tuesday morning, Todd sent 11 more proofread puzzles, and then that afternoon, Denny Baker sent in 4 puzzles.  Half an hour later, 7 more came in from Todd McClary, which were followed by 12 more from Mark Diehl that evening (after which I sent out the first puzzles from 1946!).  Wednesday afternoon, Lynn sent 4 more puzzles, bringing her total to 250 litzed puzzles—congratulations, Lynn!  Thursday morning, Susan sent in 4 more puzzles, and then Friday morning, Todd sent 10 more proofread puzzles.  We've now litzed 15,586 puzzles—great job, everyone, and thanks so much again!  By next week, we should be over 15,600!

We zipped into and through 1947, a year in which several noteworthy technological events took place, not the least of which was AT&T's introduction of its commercialized Mobile Telephone Service.  According to Wikipedia, although Bell Labs had inaugurated a limited mobile service in St. Louis in 1946, AT&T's MTS came to 100 towns and highway corridors in 1947.  Unfortunately, MTS's three radio channels meant that only three customers in any given city could make a call at the same time!  Just imagine if we had to deal with those kinds of constraints today!  And though I'm sure this old cell phone must have seemed very cool at the time, it doesn't compare with today's iPhones:

Image courtesy of History of Mobile Phones.

In addition to the 1946 appearance of the precursor to AT&T's MTS, another notable event from 1946—where we are now in our litzing—was the official introduction of the modern bikini.  According to Wikipedia, a French mechanical engineer (!) designed a string bikini made of four triangles of fabric printed with a newspaper pattern.  Interestingly (but not surprisingly), bikini-like garments were actually worn in ancient Greece and Rome.  But 1946 is the year the first modern-day bikini is attributed to, and here's a picture of model Micheline Bernardini wearing it:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Constructor Kevin Christian gave me an awesome crossword artifact that I'd never seen before at the ACPT earlier this month:  the Crossword Companion Roll-A-Puzzle System!  This intriguing device, a more up-to-date version of which appears to still be for sale by a company called Herbko, seems to have come preloaded with three scrolls of Maleska-edited New York Times crosswords.  The Crossword Companion is operated via two knobs on the right side of the puzzle that allow you to move on to the next puzzle or go back to the previous one.  The coolest part about the Crossword Companion, however, is definitely the scrolls of 1992 Maleska dailies!  Although the constructor names aren't included on the puzzles, the publication dates are, which could help clear up any clues that were chopped off by the PDFs or were too difficult to read in that format.  Thanks so much again for this fascinating crossword relic, Kevin!  Here's a picture of the Crossword Companion:

Today's featured puzzle, whose constructor is unknown, was published August 14, 1965; edited by Margaret Farrar; and litzed by Howard Barkin.  This bizarre-yet-fascinating puzzle feels much more in the style of Will Weng than Margaret Farrar—maybe Weng himself was the puzzle's mystery constructor!  The theme—entries related to James Bond, with no-nonsense clues—seems relatively simple on the surface.  Of the straightforward theme entries, I especially like MASTER CRIMINALS (clued as "No and others."); the "modern style" part of the JAMES clue ("With 5 Across, Ashenden's successor, modern style." [5-Across is BOND]) is also rather amusing.  What really makes this puzzle interesting, however, is that random three entries with double Os at their starts are clued thematically:  OOMPH ("Plausible middle name for 007?"), OOM-PAH ("Musical effect, √† la 007?"), and OONA ("Just the girl for 007?").  I don't think this somewhat nonsensical twist would be salable in a mainstream market nowadays (even if there had been 7 theme entries with double Os), though it did make me smile.  I found it amusing that OONA could also be considered the perfect girl for a crossword enthusiast—letter patterns don't get much better than that!

The nonthematic fill in this puzzle, however, feels particularly strained on the whole, with a few exceptions.  NEORAMA ("Exposition hall, World's Fair style.") is an interesting entry that was lively at the time; HER HONOR ("Lady judge.") is a nifty phrase that doesn't show up very often in crosswords; and BIZERTE ("'Gertie from ___,' W. W. II song."), albeit uncommon by today's standards, looks cool in the grid and is fun to say.  I Googled the song, whose full title, "Dirty Gertie from Bizerte," is even more fun to say.  The rhyming lyrics to this song are hilarious—the first few verses contain a particularly good knee-slapper (pun intended)!  The rest of the nonthematic fill, though, has quite a few meh-inducing entries, including the partials TRACER OF ("'___ Lost Persons'") and STORY MAN ("Second ___."), plural abbreviations AFRS ("Natives of Togo, Mali, etc.") and RGTS ("Army units: Abbr."), TINDERLIKE ("Very inflammable."), and a cornucopia of tough proper nouns.  In all, though, I appreciated this puzzle's quirkiness, despite some of its substandard fill.  The answer grid, with highlighted theme entries, can be seen below:

Last week's blog post included a list of ten "modern" clues from 1966–68 crosswords.  Here are eleven more "modern" clues from earlier on in the Farrar era.  Check back next week for the third installment in this incredibly out-of-date clue series:  "contemporary" clues!
  • April 26, 1966 (litzed by Denny Baker)
    • Clue:  Describing some modern music (with "The").
    • Answer:  BIG BEAT
  • April 13, 1966 (litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Clue:  Modern miracle of light.
    • Answer:  LASER
  • April 14, 1966 (litzed by Jeffrey Krasnick)
    • Clue:  Handbag, modern style.
    • Answer:  TOTE
  • January 8, 1966 (litzed by Denny Baker)
    • Clue:  Social group, modern style.
    • Answer:  THE IN CROWD
    • Clue:  Type of transit, modern style.
    • Answer:  ORBITING
  • January 5, 1966 (litzed by Denny Baker)
    • Clue:  Road, modern style.
    • Answer:  SPEEDWAY
  • January 2, 1966 (constructed by Jack Luzzatto, litzed by Mike Buckley)
    • Clue:  Modern French composer.
    • Answer:  POULENC
  • October 22, 1965 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Eccentric one, modern style.
    • Answer:  KOOK
  • August 12, 1965 (litzed by Howard Barkin)
    • Clue:  Modern furniture.
    • Answer:  DINETTE SET
  • August 7, 1965 (litzed by Howard Barkin)
    • Clue:  Modern transmission receivers.
    • Answer:  TEEVEES
  • July 19, 1965 (litzed by Mark Diehl)
    • Clue:  Celebrity, modern style.
    • Answer:  VIP
My favorite from this set is the LASER clue—here's a picture of some trippy laser beams:

Image courtesy of Urban Spotlight San Antonio.


  1. I'd like to think the clue for MCGINLEY (48 Across) refers to Jump The Shark Patron Saint Ted McGinley...but he was only 7 in 1965. Sigh.

  2. I know those longer partials are unfashionable but I'm, uh, partial to them. SECOND STORY MAN seems particularly cute to me. It means a thief, or more like a cat burglar -- someone who could scale buildings to steal jewels from the bedside tables of the fabulously wealthy.

    I think someone should sing Dirty Gertie from Bizerte at the next ACPT talent show.

    1. Yeah, sometimes the partials were better than the obscurities!