Saturday, February 29, 2020

Saturday, February 29, 2020, Andrew J. Ries


It's Leap Day! The birthday of Frederick, from The Pirates of Penzance. Here's a little trivia question for you: what birthday would good old Frederick be celebrating today? Answer below!

We don't get any nod towards this quadrennial event in today's puzzle, just a very nice themeless. I wonder if JANELLEMONAE was the seed today. She was excellent in Moonlight, but I know one of her songs only, Make Me Feel, which was written by Prince and you can tell. Her intro to the Oscars this year was a big mess but a good one.

For your non-QMC style clues today, a good one is found at 36A: Frank type (BEEFHOTDOG). It's a very nice bit of deception because it's so straightforward on a Saturday, that is assuming you figured out that the first word was a noun and not an adjective. Another good one is at 49D: A boom might come out of it (MAST). On the other hand, 43A: Skort circuit? (LPGATOUR) is quite amusing. 3D: List of frozen assets? (DESSERTMENU) just misses, in my opinion. Too many opportunities for non-frozen delights on a dessert menu.
The CROTONRIVER, just a little South of me

I like it when I know a bit of trivia that helps out. For example, 25D: Site in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco, for short (USMINT) went right in. Similarly with HAGAR.

I was slowed down by putting in EGGRaceS (?!) at 21A: Easter activities (EGGROLLS). I mean, I'm not far off. But the eggs aren't racing, so I was definitely off here.

So much good: BOYARDEE, JAMESON, KOALAS. I also keep on misparsing FUNKRAP as "fun krap," which I suppose is a faint compliment.

Good times. I pass off to Horace starting tomorrow. See you all soon!

- Colum

P.S. The answer to the above riddle, for those who care about Gilbert and Sullivan. Frederick states that "In 1940 I of age will be..." So he will celebrate his 21st birthday that year, or so he believes. The difficult thing is that he (and presumably Gilbert) may have forgotten that there would be no Leap Day in 1900. How can we tell whether he did or didn't?

Well, if he did remember that, he would have been born in 1852, and if he didn't he would have been born in 1856. Since the events of the operetta take place 21 years later, it could either be in 1873 or 1877. But we have a definitive hint: the Major General sings that he can "whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore," and HMS Pinafore was first staged in 1878. Well, that must mean that Frederick was actually born in 1860, so the events of the play could take place in 1881 (I think we have to assume that the Major General doesn't have precognition). Which means that in 1940, he was actually celebrating his 19th birthday.

And that means that in 2020 (remembering that 2000 was a leap year), Frederick is celebrating his 39th birthday.


  1. 21:38
    I spent at least five, maybe even seven or eight minutes on the W and R of WORST. I do not remember ever hearing of the CROTONRIVER, and for some reason, "Down state?" did not lead me to WOE for a very long time. I think that's what finally did it, though. And, for the record, I think WORST is the WORST entry. I hate the verbing of that word.

    Aside from that, this was a pretty good Saturday. I've never heard of FUNKRAP before, and I like your new parsing, Colum. Also, nice riff on Frederick's age. :)

  2. 23:34
    Colum's parsing of FUNKRAP is, no doubt, apt, at least the second part. I don't take a BEEFHOTDOG and never heard of JANELLEMONAE. I entered LiNDE initially, but the cross saved me. I enjoy the occasional JAMESON, and thought the ONENINTH trivia interesting. I tried EGGhuntS where EGGROLLS belongs, but the crosses quickly fixed that mess up. This seemed somewhat on the moderate-difficulty level for a Saturday. Also, I thought we weren't supposed to say PREEMIE any longer. Of course, it doesn't bother me at all. On any other day of the week, I'd have entered nAan off of the clue for 1D, but since it was a Saturday puzzle, I waited for the crosses.

  3. What am I missing about ONT being OK for "It's on the St. Lawrence: Abbr."?? Since when are states or provinces referred to as being "on" a river? Is it a cryptic clue since "on t" is contained within the clue? Does it refer to Lake Ontario because the "St. Lawrence" in question is the St. Lawrence seaway?