puzzle -12:00 or so
did i step into a time warp? this week's episode of matt gaffney's weekly crossword contest, "This Isn't Gonna Work," was supposed to be a first-week-of-the-month puzzle, but i found it more difficult than a typical NYT saturday despite catching onto the theme pretty quickly. maybe that was matt's way of (over)compensating for the fact that we had an extra day to solve it. anyway, here were the theme answers:
the contest instructions tell us: This week's contest answer word is five letters long and it's what's missing from this week's puzzle. of course, you've figured out that LABOR has been dropped from six phrases, sometimes with a change in the word breaks, to create these phrases: BELABOR THE POINT, LABORATORY MOUSE, SKILLED LABORERS, CAN YOU ELABORATE, LABORS OF HERCULES, and LABORIOUS PROCESS. and in celebration of labor day, that's the answer to the puzzle.
why did it take me so long? well, almost all of the puzzle was pretty hard, i thought. there were tons of factual clues that i just didn't know. among them:
that's a lot of stuff (much of it geographical), but the part that killed me was the SW corner, where all of the things i don't know and clues that didn't help me came together. ROO and ZOEA i've already mentioned. 39a, VIPEROUS, was not a word that came to mind easily even with many crosses in place. the long down theme answer ... well, let's just say i didn't like it. i figured out that it was going to be laborious something, but PROCESS seems pretty arbitrary. i had DETAILS at first even though ERRS and OR SO really looked right. the clue for INCL, [At no extra charge, in ads], did not lead me to the answer and i'm looking askance at it even now. the clue for VERIZON, [Sprint finisher, they hope], seems like a pretty big stretch.
i could go on, but almost every clue in the puzzle was harder than it needed to be, so i won't list them all. i generally like hard puzzles, but i don't like feeling stupid on puzzles that are supposed to be easy, so this one definitely rubbed me the wrong way. since matt started his current difficulty scale, the first-week puzzles have all taken me 3-4 minutes. this one, 15 minutes. so i gotta ask... was it just me?
September 09, 2009