crossword 13:21 (paper)
puzzle about an hour
the 64th episode of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, "Almost A Murmur," was an absolutely brutal crossword followed by a cool but tough meta. let's have a look at the theme answers:
what do these have in common? it's not all that tough to see: all twelve of the five-letter words in the theme answers have the same cryptogram pattern. if this were a kaidoku, every one of them could be "clued" as 1-2-3-1-2. as the title says, it's "almost a murmur," because one more letter and they would be the same three letters repeated, just like the word "murmur." having said that, i think ONION SENSE (clued in some way relating to the onion) might have been more fun.
so what about the meta? well, the instructions say that This week's contest answer phrase consists of the surname of a famous author AND the surname of one of his characters. Taken together, they would've made an excellent theme entry this week. this took me a long time. i first thought about 1=A, like ABFAB or ATBAT, but that went nowhere. then i thought about B: la BAMBA? nope. C seemed promising, since CASCA is a famous literary character (from julius caesar, as NYT solvers know since it's shown up twice in the last week). but of course SHAKESPEARE doesn't fit the pattern at all. i kept going, but i fell asleep (literally) around H and when i woke up, i was somewhat groggy. eventually deciding that electronic assistance would be helpful, i grepped the cruciverb word list and hit upon the answer: franz KAFKA and his character gregor SAMSA (of the metamorphosis).
other fun possibilities: ESME'S MAGMA, SHUSH LAILA/LAYLA, ELIEL HATHA. (i just learned the word HATHA last week, from a crosssynergy puzzle.)
okay, the crossword. this was an absolute bitch. ten minutes in, i had none of the theme answers except EDGED THOTH and no clue what was going on. as soon as i got another one, the theme became pretty obvious and i scrambled to fill in the rest of the puzzle.
the grid contained three things i've certainly never heard of, and a ton of clues that were just plain mean. first, the unfamiliar answers:
other hard clues:
well then. i can't imagine how painful next week's crossword will be, if this was only third-week difficulty. but in any event, i'll be here. see you then.
August 25, 2009
crossword 13:21 (paper)