September 15, 2009


crossword couldn't finish
puzzle about 2 minutes

real quick here, as i'm running way behind: i couldn't finish this crossword. you can see at right how much of the grid i solved. this is about how much i had after 9 minutes; i struggled with it for about 7 more minutes before giving up. i couldn't make REL__ look at all plausible no matter whether i spelled the drink MOJITOS or MOHITOS. afterwards, somebody (okay, orange) told me it was RELOJ (!?!), which does not look like a possible word ending in spanish. (admittedly, i don't actually know spanish.) believe it or not, my best guess (and what i wrote on my paper grid) was ... RELCH. no, that doesn't look plausible either in spanish, but at least it looks plausible in some language, unlike RELOJ, which seems klingon at best. the RI_ clue, [Duran Duran dancer], wasn't helping at all, because a) i didn't know it and b) the letter pattern ruled out neither vowels nor consonants. (i was pretty sure it wasn't RII, RIJ, RIW, or RIY. but that's it.) not being able to finish a crossword seriously grumps me out, but i'm trying to keep an open mind about it.

i figured out the meta about two minutes into the crossword. the title of the puzzle was "Different Drummer," and the instructions said: This week's contest answer is the one grid entry whose clue is different from the others! well, what about those clues? they were all alliterative, much like the title: [Stupid step], [Zaftig Zellweger], [Calais cash], etc. the one exception was the clue for the central theme answer: [Like this puzzle's hints, with one exception]: ALL ALLITERATIVE. the "one exception" is itself. props for going extra-meta with the meta!

by the way, why "puzzle hints" instead of "crossword clues"? because CROSSWORD CLUES was in the grid, at 20-across. together with its symmetric theme answer, SOUNDED SIMILAR, this was another big hint to the meta.

minor deductions: some of the clues exhibited assonance (repeated vowel sounds) rather than alliteration (repeated consonant sounds): [Alluring announcer Andrews], [Ample artery], [Oxonian Oscar], etc. i'll let this slide because i think sometimes alliteration can be used more generally than just "repeated consonant sounds" even though that's the technical definition. and i'm leaning towards disliking ["Alright already!"] for "OK OK" because "alright" isn't a word. it's probably okay because the clue is an informal spoken expression rather than proper english, but it still seems like cheating. and of course, ["All right already!"] doesn't fit the theme.

by the way, matt came very close to making all of the grid entries alliterative, too. the long "theme" answers (CROSSWORD CLUES and SOUNDED SIMILAR) are alliterative, and ALL ALLITERATIVE itself is at least assonant. but there were a few two-word entries that didn't fit: I LIKE, ONE-C, ICE T, TIRE IRON, and LOOK DOWN. i'm not sure how you'd classify the roman numeral MDCLX or the informal short form SOCO for "southern comfort." there was also one ugly-ass unfamiliar acronym: HELOC, clued as [Loan letters]. what does this mean?

why was this puzzle so tough for me? other than that california area with RIO, RELOJ, SPRATS (not a word i'm 100% familiar with, but i think i've seen it before and at any rate, the R was pretty inferrable)... okay, well, let's say a little more about that area. the terminal S at the crossing of MOJITOS and SIRS confused me. neither clue looks plural: [Cuban concoction] and [Army address]. can anybody explain this?

the other part that caused me trouble, but which i eventually figured out, was the bottom-center region, where [Cyclades supreme, sizewise] NAXOS crossed [Seventeenth-century section] MDCLX and [Guatemalan's "grilled"] ASADO. now, i know the island NAXOS (where theseus abandoned ariadne, in greek mythology), but it was obscured by a few minutes for two reasons: 1) the clue is hard to make any sense of at all due to the contorted alliterative wording; and 2) i had ASADa instead of ASADO, since i've only ever seen that adjective in mexican restaurants as part of "carne asada." as for the roman numeral, it could have been I, V, or X; i was trying to figure out if NAIAS or NAVAS could be a greek island i don't know. either one certainly seems plausible, doesn't it? maybe not NAVAS, since i don't think there's a greek V. but i'm the same guy who thought that a spanish word couldn't end in -OJ, so obviously i'm no expert on european languages.

let's hear from everybody else. what was your take on this supposed softball?