March 03, 2009

Wednesday, 3/4

Onion 7:43
NYT 4:26
BEQ 4:08
Puzzazz 3:47 (PDF here)
LAT 3:25
Tausig (not timed)

Hmm, I still need to finish up that post about the tournament weekend...and then get going on blogging about the ACPT puzzles themselves. I'm still working on getting my sleep account out of arrears, so the big wrap-up won't come tonight.

One regular feature of ACPT weekend is the easy availability of other puzzles. You looking for the Saturday Times puzzle? Check the table in the hotel lobby. (If only all hotels would offer that, year-round! Imagine: going to a hotel and having a ready alternative to USA Today.) The registration folders included something billed as the World's Hardest Crossword, from Esquire magazine in 1965. It's got plenty of obscure and arcane words in it, that's for sure. I sat next to Trip Payne for the Saturday solving sessions, and he was combining his answers with those of Jon Delfin and Google. I joined the team effort and that puzzle was yielding, but certainly wasn't finished by Saturday afternoon. Does this sound like a fun puzzle, a crossword that three of this year's top 10 contestants plus Google couldn't polish off in short order? Oy.

Another puzzle that was made available to event-goers was the March 1 puzzle (PDF link above) by Roy Leban. Puzzazz puzzles are more often short wordplay puzzles, but this one's a crossword. The instructions say, "Solve the puzzle to learn about three famous sales, then anagram the circled letters to make the two-word name of something that's been 'sold' many times." The theme entries have clues about specific sales—the GUTENBERG BIBLE [sold for $5.4 million in 1987]. MANHATTAN ISLAND [was sold for 60 guilders in 1625]. Cheap! And BUSINESS DOT-COM (meaning the domain, I believe) [sold for $7.5 million in 1999]. The anagrammed circled letters spell out BROOKLYN BRIDGE, an apt answer for a puzzle distributed a short distance from said bridge. Highlights in the fill: GUMBY the rubber animation character; Vince LOMBARDI; PLANETOID clued with reference to Pluto; CAMERA-SHY; and UNDO clued as [Control-Z, usually] (it's command-Z on the Mac).

The comparatively long solving time for the Onion A.V. Club crossword by Matt Jones reflects the tiredness I was mentioning—I kept nodding off and could scarcely keep my eyes open, which doesn't bode well for the NYT puzzle that launches in a few minutes. WET SOUTER is [Justice fresh from the shower]. Is a person in a wet suit called a wet-suiter? I don't know. [Kids' game pitting enforcers of the law against the Justice who wrote them] is COPS AND / ROBERTS—John Roberts, cops and robbers. [Justice who prefers soft, natural shirts] clues COTTON KENNEDY, which I think is a pun on "cotton candy" but the pronunciation is a bit of a stretch. [Prop for a Justice moonlighting as a magician?] is BREYER RABBIT, playing on Brer Rabbit. NUM SCALIA is [Justice with a keyboard lock key]; there's a num-lock key that facilitates the typing of numerals and...I'm not sure. "Numbskull" with added vowel sounds after it? The toughest answers for me here are MINYA, or [El-___ (area of the Nile River Valley)], and POTEET, clued as ["Designing Women" character B.J. ___]. Other pop-culture clues that might not be obvious to many: DYNOMUTT was a [Robotic "Dog Wonder" of 1970s Saturday morning TV] and STEVE-O was the ["Jackass" member who got a tattoo in a moving vehicle]. Also tough: [Multipurpose doc, for short] clues ENT, an ear, nose, and throat doctor. I was thinking the doc was a document. [Rocket section behind a nosecone] is an AFTERBODY, and I don't think I've encountered that word before.

And now for the New York Times crossword by C.W. Stewart. Hey! It's Wednesday! It's not Thursday yet, so what's this flip/flop rebus puzzle doing here? The theme is encapsulated by IN OR OUT, a [Choice for a dog, as well as a hint to this puzzle's theme]. Each rebus square means IN in one direction and OUT in the crossing. I think the rebus squares are all in symmetrical spots, too—that's fancy crosswordin'! No, wait, I described the rebus squares wrong. (Tired.) The clues for both directions are for phrases or words with both the IN and OUT options:

  • 1A. [Revenue / Result] is INCOME/OUTCOME.
  • 1D. [Fjord / Bargain locale] is INLET/OUTLET.
  • 6A. [Many a holiday visitor / Bandit] clues IN-LAW/OUTLAW.
  • 6D. [Foot part / Go beyond] gives you INSTEP/OUTSTEP. Outstep isn't a common word; overstep is more familiar.
  • 10A. [Welcome, as a visitor / Try to make a date with] is ASK IN/ASK OUT.
  • 13D. [Map feature / Start] clues INSET/OUTSET.
  • 26A. [At a lecture, say / Surpass in quality] is IN CLASS/OUTCLASS. "In class" is maybe a hair shy of the height requirement for for riding the suitable fill rollercoaster.
  • 26D. {Arriving at the tail end / Survive] clues IN LAST/OUTLAST. "In last" also doesn't feel too "in the language."
  • 33D. [Submitted, as an entry / Emitted] is SENT IN/SENT OUT.
  • 48A. [Sub / Excel] clues STAND-IN/STAND OUT.
  • 52D. ['60s protest / Skip, as a dance] clues SIT-IN/SIT OUT.
  • 67A. [Soon to get / Trying to get] is IN FOR/OUT FOR.
  • 51D. [Hit so as to make collapse / Win over] is BEAT IN/BEAT OUT.
  • 68A. [Ushered / Showed the door] clues LED IN/LED OUT. Meh.
  • 60D. [Tired / Total] clues ALL IN/ ALL OUT. I have an all-out tiredness and I am all in.
  • 69A. [Attract / Protract] clues DRAW IN/DRAW OUT.
Hey, that's 16 theme answers. That's quite a lot. Outside the theme, here are the gnarliest bits. What are [Steel helmets with visors]? They're called BASINETS, not to be confused with bassinets. [India's ___ Coast] is MALABAR. ISLES is a straightforward word, but the [Antilles, e.g.] clue didn't quite point me in the proper direction. LABAN was [Brother of Rebecca, in the Bible].


Don Gagliardo's LA Times crossword is a flavor explosion. You've got your TASTE BUDS down at 63-Across tying these things together:
  • To SWEET-TALK means to [Cajole].
  • A [Hard-to-accept consequence, metaphorically] is a BITTER PILL to swallow.
  • One [Dirty joke feature] is SALTY LANGUAGE.
  • The [Fox's conclusion, in an an Aesop fable], is that the out-of-reach treats are SOUR GRAPES.
I impeded my progress here by answering [In an unfortunate way] with PITIABLE rather than PITIABLY, which tucked the SALTY LANGUAGE out of reach; the clue works as both an adverb and an adjective, but only the Y fit the crossing. [Dracula weapon] isn't merely a fang, it's a CUSPID tooth, and dentists don't customarily call those teeth "fangs." [Utility bill details] clues GAS RATES, which is likely the dullest answer in this puzzle.

On the heels of the super-busy American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, Brendan Emmett Quigley's crossword is another repeat from his run of Time Out New York puzzles. The title and blurb read "Number Please: Can you digit?" The theme entries are three phrases that start with numbers, only the numbers have been lopped off. [___ (trashed)] is four SHEETS TO THE WIND. [___ (kissing game)] is Seven MINUTES IN HEAVEN. And there are the Twelve DAYS OF CHRISTMAS, a [___ (classic carol)]. Theme, shmeme—what I like in this puzzle are the triple-stacked 11-letter answers in the fill and the colorful 10-letter answers that intersect them. ["Ta-ta!"] clues "ADIOS, AMIGO." [Polishes, army-style] is SPIT-SHINES. Full-name EDDIE ARCARO is the legendary [Jockey who had the nickname "Banana Nose"], and I didn't know that trivia bit. [Free game that comes with Windows] is MINESWEEPER; luckily, I'm a Mac user so I am unable to destroy my productivity that way. I have no idea why [Green Tag: Abbr.] clues REC. Who can explain that to me?

When I test-solved Ben Tausig's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Animal Tails," he had a gross clue for EX-LAX—gross, but definitely funny. Turns out he had a couple other clues he liked, so he ended up going (!) with [It makes waste with haste]. Enjoy the potty humor in the alt-weekly and indie crosswords, 'cause you won't be seeing it in the NYT any time soon. With the pair of X's, though, EX-LAX really livens up its corner of the grid, doesn't it?

The theme entries have an animal "tail" appended:
  • [Self-affirming mantra for an angler?] is I BELIEVE I CAN / FLY-FISH. Does R. Kelly like to fish? Is A River Runs Through It his favorite film?
  • [Act the political hypocrite in wartime?] is PLAY CHICKENHAWK. Chickenhawks are the hawks who promote war but never served in the military themselves (e.g., Dick Cheney).
  • [Beef up your browser?] is ADD FUEL / TO THE FIREFOX. 
Random clues and answers I enjoyed:
  • OOMPA is the [Start of a "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" song]. Ask my husband about my Oompa-Loompa, don't.
  • ATOMIC is clued as being [Like some hot wings, hyperbolically].
  • AWK is an [Editorial marking] to flag awkward wording. You don't want to see too many AWKs on your manuscript.
  • The YETI is a [Cryptozoology topic]. I learned at a Field Museum exhibit that there's a mythical Chinese ape-man who will be so frightened by you, he'll pass out—and when you're good 'n' close, he'll wake up, laugh, and eat you. Something along those lines. Wish I'd heard that story as a kid.
  • HANGER-ON is a great term. It's a [Marginal entourage member].