05.16.07 -- Noughts and Crosses

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
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Puzzle by Patrick Bindauer, edited by Will Shortz
“Noughts and crosses” (also known as “Tic Tac Toe“) is a simple children's game. This Wednesday puzzle succeeds in incorporating a completed grid for the game in the grid of the puzzle.
CHILDSPLAY (60A “Piece of cake!” [and a hint to the starts of 17-Across and 11- and 27- Down]) purports to be the controlling clue for this undertaking; however, when one glances at the empty grid with circles within the center nine squares, it’s pretty obvious that it’s “noughts and crosses” or something very similar. As a result the puzzle seems a little like being invited in through the back door. No mention is made at all of the 33D, 34D, 35D, 38A and part of 42A tick tack toe (a/k/a tic tac toe) arrangement within the nine squares with circles being an outcome of the children’s game -- too clumsy an explanation? -- maybe just too obvious.
I had some trouble with XOO (33D Kiss and hugs, in a love letter) as I’m never sure how many to do of which, x’s or o’s; and OXO (35D Big name in kitchen gadgets) was totally new to me; but then with the given of XXX (34D Adults-only) wound up with OXX (38A Part of a coach’s chalk-talk diagram) as a result of the foregoing and certainly I would never, ever know that information about a "coach's chalk-talk diagram"! I’d sooner have it be clued as the German beer, Oxx! Finally, there are EXXON (32A It merged with Mobil) and BOXOF (42A "...like a ____ of chocolates") at the top and bottom completing the tic tac toe grid.
The “tic” in TICKLEPINK (17A. Thrill), the “tac” in TACHOMETER (11D Part of a dash) work out fine -- but we get “tow” for “toe” with TOWTHELINE (27D Do what is expected). Too picky? You’re right -- forget all that, this is a very clever little Wednesday puzzle!
LATE BULLETIN: Oops!, I stand corrected by profphil who said... "the expression is "toe the line" and not Tow the line. I picture not putting one's toe over the (racing?) line. Although your version is nice too."
So, it's TOETHELINE! ...and the tic, tac, toe is entered perfect and in order in the grid! Huzzah! Not only clever, brilliant!
TETEATETE (20A Close communication?), ATAD (10A Not much), TINMAN (28 Heartless one?)(his second appearance in a week!), TEN (39A Start of a countdown), TAHITI (45A Bernstein’s “Trouble in ______”), OTTS (40A Baseball’s Ed and Mel), PITT (1D Willis’s “Twelve Monkeys” co-star), ACETATE (5D Film overlay), TOPED (6D Imbibled), TILT (55A Feature of the earth), and TSK (9D “Baa-a-a-ad!”) join the onomatopoeic phoneme “non-theme” “theme”.
The remainder of the puzzle gives us the author of “Fanatics and Fools” ARIANNA (10A Huffington, who wrote “Fanatics and Fools”) -- is that about crossword bloggers?, and the rarely seen JONI (61A Musical Mitchell) (it must be her “J”), the oddly named LAE (37A Seaport of New Guinea), and lastly, it includes LION (31A Companion of 28-Across) and (2D Romeo’s last words) I DIE! (Illustration below.) Fun!


Confused? Let Linda G set it right at Madness…Crossword and Otherwise.
Or check Rex at Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle.
Maybe guest blogger John at Diary of a Crossword Fiend.
Just need a laugh? -- today's cartoon at The Crossword Puzzle Illustrated.
Puzzle available on the internet at
THE NEW YORK TIMES -- Crossword Puzzles and Games

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Anonymous said...


The expression is "toe the line" and not Tow the line. I picture not putting one's toe over the (racing?) line. Although your version is nice too.

DONALD said...


Thanks! Corrected on grid and note made in text!

I recall having confusion over that in my early years also! I was always pulling instead of stepping!

DONALD said...

A lot of people who don't know the origin of the phrase picture someone pulling a rope, cord, or some other "line"--"tow the line"--as a way of working for whomever the "line" belongs to. Thus, if the administration has a "line"--i.e., a "party line"--then those who side with the administration help to pull it ("tow" it) along.

The phrase "toe the line" is equivalent to "toe the mark," both of which mean to conform to a rule or a standard. The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002; ed. by Glynnis Chantrell) says, "The idiom toe the line from an athletics analogy originated in the early 19th century" (514).

The specific sport referred to is foot-racing, where the competitors must keep their feet behind a "line" or on a "mark" at the start of the race--as in "On your mark, get set, go!"

So one who "toes the line" is one who does not allow his foot to stray over the line. In other words, one who does not stray beyond a rigidly defined boundary.

Anonymous said...

Dear Donald:

A New York Sun reporter wants to talk to you about your blog. Please call me at 646-619-1069 soonest as my deadline is tomorrow early. I hear you have had a interesting experience with the New York Times.

Thank you in advance,


George Stevenson
New York Sun

Linda G said...

It's 10:40 and I'm finally getting here.

Is that last comment for real?

DONALD said...

linda g

Yes, I guess Will Shortz talked to him about the publishing thing, being either individually contacted or in some way referred.

I spoke with him (at the Sun), it's a Friday article about crossword blogging -- seems it's a new internet phenomenon of interest. He inquired about the Times telling me not to publish certain aspects of the crosswords (as I mentioned in our correspondence). Now I guess everyone knows.

I'm not sure, but I believe he mentioned Green Genius making a referral and also checking through blog hits or something -- I don't know.

Little surprised that the beans are spilled, but it wasn't me, so I'm not too concerned -- I complied with the Times request at the time and so that's that!

I'm about to post Thursday, so I'll get back to it.

Talk to you soon!