Crossword shenanigans, part 2

To keep my brain busy while we watch television in the evenings, I do crossword puzzles, and not just any crossword puzzles but the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, which is as everyone knows the most hardest of the week’s puzzles.

I have mentioned before that there’s some weird hippie woo thing going on with me and the puzzles, because too often to be random[1] it happens that something will occur while I am solving the puzzle that refers directly to some clue/answer in the puzzle, and usually as I am solving it.

After sixteen months, I just finished volume 8 (pictured to the left), and here are the weirdnesses that I noted.


[Part 1 of the weirdnesses]

Part 2:

9/9/21, #125: We’re watching The Good Fight, and Audra McDonald refers to Al Capone / as I am reading 57A: 1920’s tax evader

9/12/21, #126: Ted Lasso says, “I’m doing breathing exercises” /as I see 55D: It breathes

9/14/21, #127: Marie Kondo show; main person Lorri says she’s saying “goodbye” to her past life / as I see 86A: Goodbyes

9/27/21, #132: Watching the Tonys, “Broadway’s Back,” a medley from Jagged Little Pill / as I’m solving 99A: “[ALANIS] Unplugged” (1999 album)

9/28/21, #133: 114D: Tony winner Salonga was a presenter on the Tonys

10/25/21, #143: I had just finished the puzzle when a character on Grantchester, an American lieutenant, says his grandfather had gone up against the Red Baron in WWI / 70D: Manfred von ______ (The Red Baron)

11/5/21, #151: Watching a rerun of Life in Pieces; little Sophia lists all her “bad words,” ending with the “F-word”: Fart / as I am seeing 52D: Toot

11/7/21, #151: Skit on SNL, something about a cable cancellation with Kieran Culkin / 142A: Many a phone caller, ON HOLD

11/8/21, #152: Curtis Sliwa had just lost the election for NYC mayor / 74D: Guardian Angels wear

11/22/21, #155: Watching Tick tick boom; he’s in the diner, woman says, “The trash needs taking out” / I had just solved 28A: Busboy’s job, sometimes

12/1/21, #160: After attending our daughter-in-law Kristin’s PhD defense panel today / 4D: Researcher’s goal, perhaps

12/29/21, #171: Watching Emily in Paris, where one of the main characters is named Alfie / 119D: Alfie’s residence

1/2/22, #172: The week before, my friend Chas was on Jeopardy; the answer to the Final Jeopardy was the Arno River / 21A: River spanned by the Ponte Vecchio

1/11/22, #174: Watching Big Bang Theory; Sheldon says, through Penny’s door, “Are you whispering ‘Don’t make a sound’?” / right as I hit 41D: Faint sound?

1/20/22, #176: Dwayne Hickman had just died / 119A: Sitcom character with “many loves”

2/3/22, #183: Watching the Beijing Olympics / 81D: Skater ____ Thomas

2/6/22, #184: Watching the Beijing Olympics / 70D: Top prize, GOLD

2/7/22, #185: An Olympics ad for Celsius soda / 34A: Quote, part 3, CELSIUS and 109A: Quote, part 7, DRCELSIUSCOULDSAY

2/8/22, #187: Watching the Beijing Olympics / 56A, Barcelona Olympics quest

2/10/22, #188: Still watching the Olympics / 97D: Olympian Johnson

2/14/22, #190: I’m wearing my Acadia National Park t-shirt / 1A: Acadia National Park locale

2/20/22, #192: Watching Sean White’s final interview at the Olympics; he’s asked about not winning a medal / as I am solving 70A: Fail to medal

One final false alarm: 3/3/22, #198: Episode of Home Economics, Connor has to step in to partner his housekeeper in a salsa competition / 8A: Latin step, but alas, it was SAMBA, not SALSA.

So over the course of sixteen months, I had thirty-three bizarre coincidences, and that’s out of 100 puzzles. That’s a pretty high woo-to-reality ratio, people. You’d think I would have won the lottery by now.


[1] Of course it’s random. But it’s still weird.

Oh, darling, let’s talk.

Yesterday this person was in line in front of me at the Kroger:

(image blurred for privacy)

His shirt says:



Very patriot. Much brave.

Yes, you can buy these shirts, although there seems to be some confusion amongst the rabble about their exact precedents.


The American Revolution is not my time period, so I could be out of the loop on the latest historicity on the founding of our nation, but I do not remember the confiscation of weapons as being any part of the effort to break free of England. It was pretty much all about the self-governance thing, No Taxation Without Representation, et al.

If you needed an object lesson in how divorced from reality the right-wing nutjobs are today, here it is. They have concocted a fake national memory and are wearing t-shirts to advertise their deeply held religious beliefs in this fake memory. If I had asked this person to explain how and when “they” tried to “take our guns,” they would have blathered about the Second Amendment but they would not have answered the question. They would not have been able to answer the question.

More than that, they would not have known that they didn’t and couldn’t answer the question.

And here we are.

I, on the other hand, would have told him that perhaps he and his ilk were thinking of Shay’s Rebellion in 1786–7, when lots o’ muskets were confiscated after a group of disgruntled farmers and vets took up arms against the government of Massachusetts. It led semi-directly to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which led to the Bill of Rights, hence and ergo the SECOND AMENDMENT (MAY THE LORD JUST BLESS ITS HOLY NAME AMEN) KENNETH. (To be fair, I think those rebels had some cromulent complaints, unlike our current crop.)

But 1775? Nah. You just made that up, bubba.

Get a grip.

St. Augustine, Days 2 & 3

I tried, guys, I really tried to make this as entertaining and informative as my other travelogues, but it ain’t happening. St. Augustine is just not that interesting.

We elected to get a two-day pass for the trolley, which travels in a 22-stop circuit around the city all the way from the FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH to RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT MUSEUM. You get the picture. It’s a good way to get an overview of where stuff is, but after the first round-trip one tires greatly of the driver’s patter. Plus the seats are uncomfortable.

The Castillo de San Marcos is wonderful. It is after all a National Monument. My main takeaway from the informational stations is that imperialism is both a hell of a drug and an absolute disease.

We went to the beach and that was nice.

Two great places to eat with phenomenal cocktails and amazing food: Odd Birds, out on Anastasia Island on the way to the beach, and Forgotten Tonic, in town.

But otherwise… it was good to get away.

ADDENDUM: I forgot—I was yelled at by a Trumpster loon. While we were eating lunch on Thursday on one of St. Augustine’s charming side streets, I was looking out the window when a full-size TRUMP WON flag went floating by. I was not too surprised; this is Florida, after all, and on the main drag there is a large home covered with banners saying things like LET’S GO BRANDON and LIBERALISM IS A DISEASE.

Then on Friday, as we were walking down the main drag, here she came: a middle-aged woman, fit and not unattractive, striding along with her flag, her face set and angry. As she passed us, I snorted audibly. She screamed GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH! and I may have said something like, “That can be arranged.” That’s when she went off the deep end and began screaming at me, a regular Gish Gallop of invective, ending up by yelling that I was a “transsexual freak in a dress.” (I was wearing my kilt.)

So that happened.

St. Augustine, Day 1

We’re on the road again, my Lovely First Wife and I, this time to St. Augustine.[1]

Technically we’re on our way to Bainbridge, and from there we will go all the way across Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. Why such a circuitous route? The explanation is, well, circuitous.

We have wooden blinds in our 90-year-old home, and every once in a while they have to be refurbished. The sun, you see, dry rots the webbing. The company which used to service these blinds was conveniently in Decatur, but the family who ran it retired and sold the business to another family, this one in Bainbridge.

So off to Bainbridge it is, a four-hour drive. Another four-hour drive to St. Augustine is a natural extension of that; at least that’s what I was told.

We just stopped in Blakely for lunch, at Smitty’s Grill. We recommend it. The staff was friendly, the food was good, and no one made fun of my Utilikilt (that I could hear, although I’m sure I was the cause of more than a little chortling—spreading joy, that’s me all over.)

Hentown, Cuba, Colquitt. (One wonders about a rural south Georgia roadside bar called Moby Dick…)

We have actually been to Bainbridge before, to celebrate the retirement of famed GHP media specialist Paula Chambers, and that’s how I know that landlocked Bainbridge is actually a seaport—the Flint River joins the Chattahoochee hereabouts, and a series of locks allows barges to float back and forth to the Gulf of Mexico. (It is a weird coincidence that those two rivers are the southeast and northwest corners of Coweta County.)

Did you know there’s a town called Attapulgus? Or that, off Highway 27 at some point, there’s a Newnan Loop Road? It does not show up in Google Maps.

Eventually we reached DeVenco Suber, the company owned and run by Mitch and Jan, a lovely couple not that much younger than we are, who decided in 2018 to buy the wooden blinds business from the family in Decatur. According to our research and theirs, plus astonished testimonials from prominent customers, they are the only wooden blind company in the United States.

After a tour of their facility and some discussion about the color of webbing, etc., we hit the road and drove across the panhandle of Florida, which is exactly as exciting as you think it it.

Since we live in the space future, I booked our hotel on the way. We ended up at Villa 1565, a charming motel on San Marco Avenue.

It’s nicely located, with the tourist trolley stopping at the courtyard, so you know you’re going to get two more days of The Oldest This, That, and the Other, plus the Fountain of Youth (or as I shall refer to it for the rest of the trip, the Fountain of Yute.)

We dined at Raintree, and we recommend it even though the bartender shook my Manhattan instead of stirring it.

On our walk down there, the full moon rose over America’s oldest Marian shrine.


[1] The usual warning from said Lovely First Wife to all the readers of this blog who burgle homes for a living: Our house is not open for burgling. We have left nearly two wholly functioning adults there.

New Cocktail: Margarita Rosa

This one was by accident.

See, I get multiple emails with cocktail recipes, and I transfer any that I think I’d like to try to a word processing document which, when it’s full, I print out and take downstairs to my cocktail lab in the kitchen.

Tonight I tried the Quill, a combo of gin , Campari, and sweet vermouth. It was good. But then my eye fell on a bottle of key lime juice in the refrigerator, and I bethought me of margaritas, specifically one I invented several years ago which involved an arból chile tincture.

Alas, the chile was too much — I think I used too much — so my brain decided to remix the thing with Campari instead.

Oh my.

Margarita Rosa

  • 1.5 oz reposada tequila
  • 1.5 key lime juice
  • .25 oz agave syrup
  • .25 Campari
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • splash of blood orange bitters
  • lime, salt

Rim a highball glass with a lime wedge and salt. (I used a lime salt.)

Splash the blood orange bitters into the glass.

Pour the other ingredients into a mixing glass and stir (to dissolve/mix the agave). Add ice and stir to chill. Pour into the glass.


This was quite tasty. Nice balance of sweet, tart, and bitter. I’ve had three.

The Savoy Variations: Fair & Warmer

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Fair & Warmer

p. 68

I’m sure the whole “proportions-not-amounts” thing makes sense if that’s what you’re used to, but the bottom line is that a recipe that calls for 1/3 sweet vermouth and 2/3 rum still requires you to figure out how much to measure out.

Even so, that’s a 2:1 ratio, so let’s go with

  • 1.5 oz rum (originally Bacardi)
  • .75 oz Italian (sweet) vermouth
  • 2 dashes curaçao

I had to look up exactly how much a dash is — it’s 1/8 tsp, so 2 dashes is 1/4 tsp. I chose the Cruzan aged rum instead of Bacardi because I thought it might be more interesting. Also, I dug out the deKuyper orange curaçao because, hey, this recipe looked as if it might have been designed for something more sickly sweet than my now-preferred dry curaçao.

It was not good, just sort of a sledgehammer of booze (which, again, I maintain is the intended effect of most of these).

I tried again, switching back to Bacardi and the dry curaçao, and modifying the proportions.

Fair & Warmer (2)

  • 1.5 oz white rum
  • .5 oz sweet vermouth
  • .5 oz dry curaçao

It really wasn’t better. Perhaps a lemon twist might have perked it up, but on the whole it was a failed experiment. There wasn’t even enough to like to interest me in trying to fix it with further trials. Into the sink.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 3

Critical Race Idiocy, Oklahoma edition

(An earlier version of this post, and tweets referring to it, named Arkansas as the state in question. Even though the mistake is understandable, we regret the error. Oklahoma, this is on you, babe.)

As you probably are already aware, the amygdala-based lifeforms among us have decided to be afraid of something called Critical Race Theory, which is not, as the amygdala-based lifeforms would have you believe, teaching kindergartners that WHITE PEOPLE BAD KENNETH, but rather an actual socioeconomic critique of the role of race in U.S. history, particularly the role of slavery in our economy (big) and politics (bad). It is taught at the graduate level, not in kindergarten.

However, because our Republican Party is nothing if not solicitous of their amygdala-based lifeforms, they have sprung into action in state legislatures everywhere to write laws to assist our teachers to avoid the evils of CRT in their classroom.

Just kidding. They’re trying to cover their lily-white heinies so that schools don’t end up teaching the actual history of our country, which unfortunately is hella racist in most regards. (Also, they’re trying to keep the amygdala-based lifeforms riled up for voting purposes.)

Here are a couple of excerpts from a recently proposed bill in Oklahoma (42nd in education, if you believe U.S. News and World Report).

Ah yes, the 1619 Project, or as Wonkette refers to it, Satan’s Own Bible. Moving on…

Mercy. “One race”? Who on earth could they mean by that? And who might this “another race” be?

Honey, please.

Note: What they’re doing is trying to cast a wide net over the whole world and for all of history, so that white Americans don’t look that bad if you squint hard and believe that Egyptians and Mongols had anything to do with the political writings of Jefferson and Madison. Yeah, right.

But you know me: I am nothing if not helpful, and so I have prepared a handout for Oklahoma teachers who need to teach how slavery just kind of happened in this land and white people are definitely not to blame no not never racism is over WE’VE HAD A BLACK PRESIDENT KENNETH.

over 38,000 circles, 37 of which are colored red, each circle representing 100 slaveholders
Click to download a PDF version of this.

CAVEAT: The numbers are kind of wonky, since the only readily confirmable numbers I could find on short notice were the number of white slaveholders from the 1860 Census and the number of free black slaveholders from the 1830 Census. However, it definitely shows that NOT ALL WHITE SLAVEHOLDERS KENNETH, amirite?

Several ideas spring from this:

  • I could create a version of the handout with all blank circles, and you could have the students color in 37 of them to represent the free black slaveholders. NOTE: They will need magnifying glasses and 0.5mm pens. If you would like such a handout, just email me and let me know.
  • For math skills, have your students calculate the percentage of free black slaveholders to the total number. [KEY: <1%]
  • For advanced classes, like AP U.S. History, you could have the students find the actual number of slaves owned by white slaveholders v. the number owned by free black slaveholders. There we might use the 1830 Census numbers for, you know, greater fairness in depicting the multiracial responsibility for slavery in this country.

Speaking of APUSH…

Does anyone think that the Educational Testing Service or the College Board are going to alter their standardized tests to accommodate the amygdala-based lifeforms? Or is it not more probable that students in Oklahoma (and Texas and Virginia and Florida…) simply are going to flub those questions on the test? I don’t see this raising Oklahoma’s ranking in the U.S. News & World Report ranking, do you?

The Savoy Variations: Ping-Pong Special

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

Ping-Pong Special

p. 124

(6 people)

Carefully shake together 3 glasses of Sloe Gin and 3 glasses of Italian Vermouth with half a dessertspoonful of Angostura Bitters and a dessertspoonful of sugar syrup or Curaçao. Serve with a cherry and a piece of lemon rind.

I interpreted this as

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • 2–3 dashes Angostura

It was okay. It was a bit cloying, so I tossed it and remade it, reducing the amount of vermouth. Still cloying.



Ping-Pong Special (2)

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • .25–.5 oz Gran Classico amaro

I added the Gran Classico for some bitterness. It was not satisfactory.

Then I thought, if Angostura was the bittering agent in the original, why not Angostura Amaro?








Ping-Pong Special(3)

  • 1.5 oz sloe gin
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .5 oz Amaro di Angostura
  • .25 oz orange curaçao
  • Angostura bitters

It was okay. It was not a revelation.

I gave up — which I’m beginning to suspect is going the be the outcome of most of these experiments.

However, the Amaro di Angostura reminded me of a very good cocktail indeed: The Smoky Quartz, invented for me by the head bartender of AnonymouS Bar in Prague. Go read about it.

And finally, the evening began.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 2

The Savoy Variations: Empire Cocktail

The Savoy Variations: Empire Cocktail

I’m bored, so I’m taking random cocktail recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), giving them a try, and modifying/improving them if  I think it’s necessary, and reporting my findings here.

I had intended to tackle the Nineteen Twenty Cocktail today, but when I set about doing so I realized that I had forgotten to look up “groseille syrup.” As it turns out, it doesn’t exist any more, but you can make your own. Oy. (Fun fact: red currants are also unobtainable.)

So randomly flipping through the book, I settled on

Empire Cocktail

  • 1/4 apricot brandy
  • 1/4 Calvados
  • 1/2 gin

Again, Craddock’s instructions are to shake, but I stirred. Hold that thought.

Perhaps the day will come when I will be bold enough to declare a drink SINK right off the bat, but today is not that day.

However, this drink is an assault on the mouth. The dry gin hits you just like gin does to people who hate gin, and the overall taste is so brassy that it was tough to taste it more than twice.

So how to tackle it? I began by switching the gin and the Calvados, hoping that might round it out a bit. [That’s 1/2 Calvados, 1/4 each of gin and apricot.] Alas, it was not much better. (I began to suspect that shaking not stirring is required to dilute the hell out of these concoctions.)

Empire, take 2

Perhaps the gin was the issue. A more floral gin might take the edge off.

It did not.

(At this point I decided to make half-recipes — otherwise I was pouring perfectly good liquor down the sink, and I needed to minimize that.)





Empire, take 3

How about an Old Tom gin? And what if we switched to an apricot liqueur, which would be sweeter?








Empire, take 4

What if we tried the pomegranate gin that my fabulous neighbor made and gave me?

A little more interesting, but still no .







Empire, take 5

Last ditch effort: stick with the pomegranate gin, but go back to the apricot brandy.

Alas, none of these were interesting enough to finish. (Thank goodness, because I was supposed to be cooking dinner, and following a Blue Apron recipe is not easy when one is squiffed, and even a sip or two out of five cocktails in rapid succession is a bit much.) If I had to serve one to guests, it would probably be #3, but I really would rather not.

So, how to score this? It’s obviously a SINK, but is it one or five? I thought about having a separate SINK score for both Craddock and me, but I realized I would always come out on the short end of that stick so I think what we’ll do is just declare the whole thing one big SINK.


  • Savoy: 1
  • Dale: 1
  • Sink: 1