Puzzle #2 7:13
If you're planning to do this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament puzzles at home, either by mail or online, don't read on! There will be ACPT SPOILERS in this post. (I highly recommend doing either at-home option. Only $20! And fun! These terrific crosswords won't be showing up in the New York Times, and you can get an idea of how you'd stack up at the ACPT.)
Crossword constructor Karen Tracey (whose themeless stylings would make a first-rate ACPT finals puzzle someday) has created a cool tool for past tournament attendees. If you've hankered for a way to crunch the score data to see how you did against your competition by year or by puzzle, to see how the years' puzzle #5's stack up against one another, to see if there's one particular puzzle number that knocks you back in the standing—now Karen's site has a gadget that generates graphs for all that stuff. I liked Mel Rosen's graphs for the 2005 ACPT scores (including solving-division distinctions), and I'm grateful to Karen for filling in the blanks for the years since (and before—though I wasn't there 1996–2004) and adding the ability to highlight an individual's place in the graph.
Okay, moving on to Brendan Emmett Quigley's puzzle #2, which Karen Tracey's graphapalooza tells us was tougher than most puzzle #2's. Boy, I sure erased a lot of letters en route to finishing this puzzle! You'd think that doing about 40 BEQ puzzles via Brendan's blog and proofing 50 of his book puzzles—all since December—would have had me channeling his brain waves and zipping through fluidly, but no. I made it through without errors, but only after catching a zillion problems on the way.
The 17x17 puzzle's title and blurb are "Allow Me To Introduce Myself: And if you didn't hear me the first time..." Each of the theme answers incorporates two extra I's ("myself") to reorient a phrase:
I loved seeing the AXOLOTL, a [Salamander known as the Mexican walking fish], smack-dab in the middle of the grid at 31D. It's no ESNE or ERNE, and yet it's a word I learned from crosswords. On Facebook, I am officially a fan of the axolotl, and if you scroll down here, you can read a poem about it.
Brendan assures us that Will did not ask him to market the KEN-KEN puzzle by including it in his puzzle, clued as [Puzzle whose name means "cleverness squared"]. The night before, we'd all learned all about Ken-Ken from the puzzle's inventor, so that answer was pretty much a gimme for most attendees. Hey, KEN-KEN was still fresh crossword fill.
After I was done with the puzzle, my main mystery was 75A, [Virginia's ___ Caverns]. The crossings gave me LURAY, but I'd never heard of the Luray Caverns. (The website shows fearsome stalagmites and stalactites.) Hooray! It was correct.
Other tough bits:
Thanks to Karen's data gizmo, I now know that I did comparatively worse on puzzle #2 than on any other this year. There were 14 troublemakers who finished correctly one or two minutes ahead of me. Must've been all that erasing I was doing, eh? I don't like to let 14 people finish before me. I'm just glad that I made it through all seven puzzles without a mistake, and that I squeaked back into the top 10.
By the way, the ACPT page now lists (scroll halfway down) the 49 competitors who finished all seven puzzles correctly. Take a bow, y'all:
John Beck, Janet Bradlow, Adam Cohen, Marisa Cohen, Frank Colangelo, Stella Daily, Jon Delfin, Len Elliott, Dan Feyer, Leslie Frates, Howard Friedman, Thomas Gazzola, Amy Goldstein, Peter Gordon, Rolf Hamburger, Brent Hartzell, Francis Heaney, Patricia Heath, Tyler Hinman, Doug Hoylman, Will Johnston, Richard Kalustian, Dan Katz, Stephen Kawalek, Joshua Kosman, John LaMattina, Andrew Laurence, Brian Levinson, Elaine Lippman, Frank Longo, Eric Maddy, Phoebe McBee, John McNeill, Bill Michaels, Jan O'Sullivan, Trip Payne, Bob Petitto, Arnold Reich, Amy Reynaldo, Al Sanders, Suzanne Saunders, Ken Stern, Roberta Strauss, Steve Tice, Jennifer Turney, Mary Ann Wamsley, Larry Wasser, Thomas Weisswange, John Wilson.
March 15, 2009
Puzzle #2 7:13