Kori and Amanda Learn

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“yegg” May 26, 2010

Filed under: Crossword,Movies,Vocabulary — Amanda @ 12:01 PM

A curious word popped up on yesterday’s crossword: yegg. 

Origin uncertain, possibly from English or Scottish dialect, yark or yek; popularized in 1930s gangster movies.

Noun (slang)

A person who breaks open safes, a burglar.


1904 Capture of the ‘Yegg’ Bank Burglars – movie directed by Edwin S. Porter (with quotes in as part of title)

Movie Plot: A group of bank robbers meet at their campsite to plan a burglary. When everything is ready, they break into the bank and blow open the safe. Their getaway, though, is not a clean one. They have to shoot their way out, and the gun battle sets off a desperate chase.

I want to watch this movie now.  And I want a campsite from which to do my scheming.


Not so Smazing May 10, 2010

Filed under: Annoying things,Crossword,Vocabulary — Amanda @ 2:39 PM

We completed today’s NY Times crossword with a word that neither Korilearns nor Amandalearns had ever heard of: smaze.  The clue was “some air pollution.” 

What a great word: smaze.  It’s just fun to say “SMAZE!”  Now, we love learning new words, especially words that are fun to say.  You can probably imagine our excitement when we went to look up the actual definition and history of the word smaze:

A thick, heavy atmospheric condition offering reduced visibility because of the presence of suspended particles: brume, fog, haze, mist, murk.  (answers.com)

Dictionary.com gave us the detailed definition “smoke + haze.”  That’s it.  Try Googling “smaze.”  You get nothing.  No one ever uses it in a sentence.  Ever.

We’re pretty sure that Randy Sowell, today’s puzzle creator, made it up and then convinced Will Shortz that smaze is a real word.  Shame on you, Mr. Shortz.  We expect more from you.


A Brief History of Crossword Puzzles May 5, 2010

Filed under: Brilliant things,Crossword — Amanda @ 5:38 PM

Arthur Wynne's original crossword puzzle from December 21, 1913.

It’s no secret that we here at the Kori and Amanda Learn blog love crossword puzzles.  Who doesn’t?  But do you know who invented the crossword puzzle and when?  How are American crosswords different from British or Japanese crosswords?  Read on, dear reader.     

The first example of a crossword puzzle appeared on September 14, 1890, in the Italian magazine Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica. It was designed by Giuseppe Airoldi and titled “Per passare il tempo” (“To pass the time”). Airoldi’s puzzle was a four-by-four grid with no shaded squares, but it included horizontal and vertical clues.      

On December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne, a journalist from Liverpool, England, published a “word-cross” puzzle in the New York World that embodied most of the features of the genre as we know it. This puzzle is frequently cited as the first crossword puzzle, and Wynne as the inventor. Later, the name of the puzzle was changed to “crossword.”     

The crossword phenomenon was slow to take hold.  Our own Boston Globe, as early as 1917, was one of the first papers to regularly publish crosswords.  

In 1921, the New York Public Library reported that “The latest craze to strike libraries is the crossword puzzle,” and complained that when “the puzzle ‘fans’ swarm to the dictionaries and encyclopedias so as to drive away readers and students who need these books in their daily work, can there be any doubt of the Library’s duty to protect its legitimate readers?”  Initially, some viewed the crossword puzzle with alarm, and some expected (even hoped) that it would be a short-lived fad. 

The New York Times didn’t publish its first puzzle until 1942.  In fact, the paper was quite critical of these kinds of puzzles.  On November 17, 1924 The New York Times complained of the   

“sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport… [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development.”    

In The New York Times on December 23, 1924 a clergyman called the working of crossword puzzles “the mark of a childish mentality” and said “There is no use for persons to pretend that working one of the puzzles carries any intellectual value with it.”  


Types of Crossword Grids       

American Style Crossword

Crosswords in North America typically feature solid areas of white squares. Each answer usually is required to contain at least 3 letters and shaded squares are typically limited to one-sixth of the crossword design.  In both North America and Britain crossword grids should have a 180-degree rotational symmetry, so that its pattern appears the same if the paper is turned upside down.

UK Style Crossword

Crossword grids elsewhere, such as in Britain and Australia, have a lattice-like structure, with a higher percentage of shaded squares, leaving up to half the letters in an answer unchecked. For example, if the top row has an answer running all the way across, there will be no across answers in the second row.    

The design of Japanese crossword grids often follows two additional rules: that shaded cells may not share a side and that the corner squares must be white.  Due to the Japanese writing system, which uses characters rather than letters, each cell is typically one syllable rather than one letter.

In Poland (shout out to Martufo!) crosswords typically use British-style grids, but do not have shaded cells.  Shaded cells are instead replaced by boxes with clues.  Also, in most Polish crosswords nouns are the only allowed words.

Crossword puzzles RULE!


Only Kori Learns May 3, 2010

Filed under: Animal Kingdom,Crossword,Science — Kori Learns @ 2:47 PM

Today Kori Learns learned about the Loris, which is not to be confused with the Lorax of Dr. Seuss fame.  Lorises are small primates that apparently come in one of two subfamilies, slender or slow.  I am uncertain as to whether they can be both slender and slow, but it appears unlikely.

Lorises are nocturnal and insectivores.  Also, the females practice infant parking, which sounds like something amusing but really only means they leave their babies at home in the nest.  Most interestingly mothers groom their babies with their allergenic saliva to deter predators, which is simultaneously cool and gross.

The reason that only Kori learned is because Amanda already knew about the Loris and this is not the “Kori Learns and Amanda Remembers What She Learned” blog.  Kori Learns finds it surprising that Amanda Learns is the one familiar with this small tree dwelling primate since Kori Learns is the one who has cable and watches too many nature programs like Life, Planet Earth and When Animals Attack.

Lorises are also cute.

Learn Loris Lore here.


What the Veldt?! April 27, 2010

Filed under: Crossword,Geography,Uncategorized,Vocabulary — Amanda @ 2:40 PM

Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa, United States

Today’s crossword threw us for a little loop with the clue “Open grassland.”  We had 4 of the 5 letters (_ELDT) and, for the life of us, could not figure out the first letter of the word.  Luckily, we deduced that the answer to “End of a Shakespeare play” should be “ACT V,” thus giving us the V for veldt!  

Turns out that Veldt (also commonly spelled Veld) refers primarily (but not exclusively) to the wide open rural spaces of South Africa or southern Africa and in particular to certain flatter areas or districts covered in grass or low scrub. The word veld (velt in Middle High German, and feld in Old High German) is preserved also in the Afrikaans and Dutch, literally meaning ‘field’.  Veldt can also be likened to “prairie,” “outback,” or my personal favorite: “boondocks.” 

For our musically inclined readers, you might know of an English band called The Veldt.  

Any video gamers out there might recall in the video game Final Fantasy VI, the Veldt is a large flatland in which the characters can fight most previously encountered enemies.


What river ends in Cairo? April 20, 2010

Filed under: Crossword,Geography — Kori Learns @ 2:10 PM

The Nile you say?  It seems simple doesn’t it.  Truth be told the Nile River ends in a large delta area that dumps into the Mediteranean Sea.  So what river ends in Cairo?

Well, it’s the (less) exotic Ohio River!  The Ohio River joins the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois.  While the Ohio River does not have the distinction of being the longest river in the world, it is the largest tributary, in terms of volume, of the Mighty Mississippi.

If you think Cairo, Illinois is a strange town name, then you should check out China, Maine (which claims to be the “friendliest town in Maine” so maybe you really should make the trip).

UPDATED: Amanda learns is apparently unhappy with the promotion of Maine (the way life should be) or more importantly, the exclusion of Colorado (the “Highest State”).  If you’re looking for a strangely named Colorado locale, look no further than Dinosaur, Colorado!  Where there are really (long dead and fossilized) dinosaurs!

Ohio River info here!


We won! We won! April 13, 2010

Filed under: Crossword — Kori Learns @ 1:36 PM

This week so far, we have completed the Monday and Tuesday NYT crossword puzzles.  Today, we finished in 16 minutes or maybe less.  We really should learn to keep time better.  Other than the satisfaction of completion, we did not gain much from this puzzle in terms of new vocab words.  Apparently we have already learned too much.