March 10, 2008

2008 ACPT Puzzle 7

Puzzle 7—9:38 (time limit, 45 minutes)

This is the post where Puzzle 7 will be discussed in some detail, and comments may also contain spoilers. If you're going to solve the puzzles at home at some point (on paper or online), do not continue reading this post!

Puzzle 7: Oliver Hill, who is 17 years old and lives in Will Shortz's neighborhood, is presumably the youngest ACPT constructor to date. His "Where Oh Where?" crossword is a Sunday-sized 21x21 puzzle with a rebus theme. I voted for this one when the Munro Memorial Prize ballots came around because I just plain enjoyed it the most (though if the finals puzzle had been in the running, my heart always belongs to the wicked themeless).

Howard Barkin, Al Sanders, and Kiran Kedlaya flew through this puzzle 2 minutes ahead of my cohort, and several others were just a minute behind them. My goal was to not make an error and to be fast enough to pull into the top 15 (I was 16th after the first six puzzles). It worked! Yay for small victories.

The rebus theme called on solvers to enter [LEFT] [RIGHT], [UP], or [DOWN] into the 10 rebus squares. I suspect most of us started to enter MR RIGHT at 1-Across before the Down clues contradicted that and pointed the way towards MISTER ⇒. In the opposite corner was ⇓STREAM. The second rebused entry from the top was GET ⇓ for PUSH-⇑S, which it has been argued isn't so much an "in the language" phrase. In the sphere of this puzzle, with the likelihood that up and down action could be involved, it was all right with me. Its opposite spot was filled by ⇐ FOR THE WOLVES. Next came EXIT STAGE ⇐, which had a 50/50 chance of being correct; the crossing clue, [Extreme liberal], dictated LEFT rather than RIGHT, however. Opposite that was a two-fer, ⇑⇒ CITIZENS. Spanning the middle was ⇑ A CREEK WITHOUT A PADDLE. Muddling things for some solvers was the presence of another rebus entry, going stag without a mate on the opposite side of the puzzle (plain old I SAID SO lurked there). Even trickier, the [Antiabortion] clue had a perfect 7-letter answer, PRO-LIFE—but the answer was ⇒-TO-LIFE, crossing ⇒IES (right-handed folks). I sure didn't know that there was a sometime-Stooge named Joe BESSER, but fortunately the crossings were reasonable. A tougher crossing, for many, was the junction between [Former San Francisco mayor Joseph] ALIOTO and [[Foul-smelling], or OLID. According to Wiktionary's usage note for the latter word, this rare word is "apparently used only in dictionaries and crossword puzzles." The etymology is Latin olidus from olēre, to smell—I'd seen the word before (crosswords!) and knew the name Alioto, but Tyler Hinman pieced it together by reasoning that olfactory and oloroso were smell-related, and thus OLID was a safe bet. That's the sort of thinking that propels him to the championship, eh?

I was going to write about the finals puzzle in this post too, but it's time for the Tuesday NYT puzzle to hatch, so I'll stop here for now.