03.11.08 -- A Shot in the Dark

Pluto in True Color -- Eliot Young (SwRI) et al., NASA The verb "to pluto" (preterite and past participle: "plutoed") is a neologism coined in the aftermath of the decision to demote the planet Pluto to the status of "dwarf planet". In January 2007, the American Dialect Society chose "plutoed" as its 2006 Word of the Year, defining "to pluto" as "to demote or devalue someone or something", "as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet."


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

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Puzzle by Eugene W. Sard, edited by Will Shortz

Controversy surrounds the demotion of PLUTO (50A. A dwarf planet, now); however, mathematics and logic rule in today’s crossword -- EXPECTTHEWORST (17A. Is pessimistic); HOPESFORTHEBEST (38A. Is optimistic); and COULDNTCARELESS (60A. Is apathetic) are a very symmetrical full-across triumvirate.

Continuing with symmetry are four eight-letter entries forming crosses up left and down right of the diagram -- RACCOONS (5D Masked scavengers) and SEASCOUT (20A. Waterborne youth group member); EXPOSERS (40D. Whistle-blowers) and ONASPREE (55A. Binging). Six-letter entries are SOTRUE (21A. “I agree completely”); CATTOY (25A. Stuffed mouse, maybe); SPYHOP (45A. Springing bounce in tall grasses, as by an animal, to view the surroundings); and AVAILS
(53A. Makes use of).

The bulk of the puzzle is comprised of four-letter entries: AGES, AGRA, ALOE, ASAP, ASTO, AVES, CAHN, EBAY, ESPN, ESSE, ETAS, FENG, GELD, IRIS, KITE, LYNN, LUXE, NESS, ODES, PELT, PLOT, REMO, SHES, SMEE, STAR, STOP, SUCH, TAPA, TECH, TEES, TOBY, and WOUK -- leaving a handful of three-letter entries -- AUK, ERR, FAN, GNU, ICH , UGH, and TSE.
Raise your antennae, those low-noise microwave, millimeter wave and infrared receivers, set the dial for trivia of the monumental ilk -- poor old Pluto -- originally classified as a planet, the discovery of Pluto was always a wild guess, for now it is classified as the second-largest known dwarf planet in the Solar System (after Eris) and the tenth-largest body observed directly orbiting the Sun.
Sad as 'tis, I shed no tears for Pluto -- in the world of the science one expects the worst and hopes for the best, knowing that the world couldn’t care less -- after all, Pluto was just a shot in the dark!
Detail from “Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto” (c. 1597) a painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, located in the casino of the Villa Ludovisi, Rome.
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Across: 1. Where to tie the knot; “Bearded” bloom; 10. Captain Hook’s henchman; 14. Exotic jelly flavor; 15. “___ a deal!”; 16. Boston suburb; 22. Follows orders; 24. Ballpark worker; 29. Diving bird; 31. Intergalactic traveler; 32. ___ shui; 34. Hellenic H’s; 41. Eliot of the Untouchables; 42. Taj Mahal site; 43. Hobby knife brand; 44. Bearded grazer; 46. Garbage; 62. March plaything; 63. “Hurry!”; 64. Frolics; 65. Sapphic verses; 66. Attack, as with eggs; 67. Attack with rocks. Down: 1. Dark ___; 2. Elegance; 3. Bite-size appetizer; 4. Forum greetings; 6. One Time?; 7. Like a bad dirt road; “___ bin ein Berliner”; 9. Tom Jones’s “___ a Lady”; 10. Job openings; 11. Gift of the Magi; 12. Come after; 13. Key in; 18. Shakespeare’s Sir ___ Belch; 19. Captain Queeg’s creator; 23. Year-end temp; 25. “Love and Marriage” lyricist Sammy; 26. Natural emollient; 27. A lot of car valet’s income; 28. Buttonless shirts, informally; 30. “Disgusting!”; 32. Get all steamy; 33. Flub; 34. 24/7 auction site; 35. PC whiz; 36. Regarding; 37. Halt; 39. “Go, team!” screamer; 44. Neuter, as a horse; 45. Walk of Fame embedment; 46. Screwy; 47. Steer clear of; 48. Cook in a wok, maybe; 49. Scrabble pieces; 51. Opposite of express; 52. Not suitable; 54. Start of a play to the quarterback; 56. Storyline; 57. San ___, Italy; 58. Nascar airer; 59. In ___ (actually); 61. China’s Lao-___.

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