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Puzzle Solution #13: At Wit’s End

 Dorothy ParkerMental exercises of the type provided by crossword puzzles are said to be a good way to stave off dementia.. Dying at a young age is the only more effective–if less popular–strategy.[1]

I recommend doing my puzzles. Perhaps while listening to Mozart and doing long division without a calculator. It’s not too late to work my “Wit” crossword puzzle. C’mon, it will be good for your health.

Spoiler space

Here is a sophisticated musical interlude for your listening pleasure:


Dorothy Parker (that is her picture at the top of this page) is often credited with being the first to say “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” So she should probably get songwriting credits for that sophisticated piece of music.

The solution

(Image courtesy XwordInfo.com.)
Puzzle solution.

I have been asked to explain a couple of answers. How is IZE an answer to “Demon tail?” “Demonize,” that’s how. IZE can be added at the end of “demon” as a sort of “tail.” The question mark is supposed to tip off the solver to the punny nature of the clue. The other “huh?” clue and answer was “Facetious fivesome” for AEIOU. In this case, “facetious” contains all five vowels (once each) in order. Kind of a cool word, I think.

Apocryphal Dorothy Parker quote?My fill isn’t always great here. A few sub-optimal initialisms: OBE I’ve used before, TRA has been used by everyone else, and apparently no one outside of Northern California uses UCB to refer to the University of California, Berkeley.[2]

There is the ugly OLEATES right at the center of my puzzle. My years as a tournament Scrabble player (have I mentioned I’m a Hall of Famer?) have saddled me with the notion that this and other obscurities are perfectly good words that should be familiar to all.

But the fun stuff is in the theme. Three complete-the-quotation answers taken from the incomparable Dorothy Parker:

  • A hangover is the … wrath of grapes.
  • Brevity is the … soul of lingerie.
  • You can’t teach an old … dogma new tricks.

As with almost any famous wit, she has been credited with some things she probably never said (or didn’t say first). It happens. Mark Twain, Groucho Marx and even Yogi Berra are likewise credited with apocryphal quotations.[3] In Ms Parker’s case, the “wrath of grapes” quip may not be hers. It is not listed on her Wikiquote page, but it is widely attributed to her on the web. (We all know that when something is found on the worldwide web, it must be true.)

Some other bon mots from Parker:

  • Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.
  • You can lead a horticulture but you cannot make her think.
  • Beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes right to the bone.


Link to Wisdom on GBF pageAs I wrote when introducing this puzzle, George Barany and I collaborated on its companion, “Wisdom.” It can be found on the George Barany & Friends website. If you have not had a chance to do it, now is the time (that important project at work will wait). If you have or once you have done it–as your gerontologist recommends!–you can find a link to its solution there on George’s site.


  1. Just to be safe, I plan to do both. [^]
  2. It is more often referred to as “Cal” or “Berkeley” even in Northern California, but it is definitely known also as “UCB” there. [^]
  3. Even dimwits tend to accumulate misattributed quotations. For example, only two of these three quotes can (so far) be reliably ascribed to Donald Trump:
    (On John McCain) “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured.”
    “A certificate of live birth is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as a birth certificate.”
    “I’ve ordered our Navy to bomb the hell out of Beijing because I just don’t like Chinese food.” [^]

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