PUZZLE: Monday, January 6, 2013 New York Times Crossword
CONSTRUCTOR: Jim Peredo (ed. Shortz)
PUZZLE TYPE: 15x Themed
PUZZLE: Monday, January 6, 2013 New York Times Crossword
CONSTRUCTOR: Jim Peredo (ed. Shortz)
PUZZLE TYPE: 15x Themed
PUZZLE: “Puzzle Envy” - Sunday January 6, 2013 New York Times Puzzle
CONSTRUCTOR: Dan Feyer & Andrea Carla Michaels (Ed. Shortz)
PUZZLE TYPE: 21X21 Themed
THEME DESCRIPTION: Two word entries, either titles or common phrases. The first letters of the words in each entry follow the pattern N___ V___. Thus the title Puzzle Envy (NV).
DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS: The only real departure from a normal 21X Sunday style is the center, which contains a 10-9-10 pancake of themed answers. Kudos to the constructors for attempting to stack theme entries in this case…it may have bought its acceptance as a Sunday NYT.
SOLVING: I found this puzzle pretty easy to blast through…and I didn’t even search for the theme until the puzzle was complete. When I checked my answers, I did find one mistake, and you can see it in the above pic. I did not know the symbol that denotes a new paragraph (the backward P with an extra stem)…see it all the time in Word documents if you choose a different view, but I never knew its name. It is PILCROW, not PILCROf. I was thrown off by [Make, as one’s way]. I installed fEND, which to me fits in a way. WEND is a more accurate entry upon looking in the dictionary, but the crossing mystery left me incorrect. Everything else was pretty straightforward.
I’m not a fast solver, so I was done in about 45 mins. But I didn’t have to linger much at all. I started with PLAXICO and ODOM (sports names). The OL in the long entry made me think ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND. That didn’t fit, but that got me thinking that this could be a trick theme. If it was AN as a multiple letter square, it would fit with the OL. That worked out poorly, when no other crossing entries made sense. After erasing and working out the very SE corner, I had the makings of VIRGINIA, and NORFOLK was the logical city pairing.
The South section worked out first, and I pretty much worked my way north to the lower numbered entries. I did struggle in the NE a bit, but eventually I pried out the right entries. My last entry was UNSUB/BLEW, with the down entry being a bit elusive at first.
FAVORITE ENTRY: TURNPRO. It’s probably been used before, but the RNPR combination is quite unique. Plus it’s a mild sports reference.
FAVORITE CLUE: [Shot blocker] = LENSCAP. I knew this was going to be a mislead, but thought more about a syringe shot than a camera shot. Great clue.
LEAST FAVORITE ENTRY: AZERI. No offense to the former SSR inhabitants, just a very obscure designation.
DIFFICULTY: 3/10 (based on Sunday)
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
PUZZLE: Saturday, January 5, 2013 New York Times
CONSTRUCTOR: Barry C. Silk (Ed. Will Shortz)
DESIGN THOUGHTS: 15X15, 3X9’s Across in the NW/SE, 3X8’s Down in the NE and SW. Two 15-letter entries crossing down the central axes, which also cross the groupings.
SOLVING: To me, this puzzle was pretty reasonable for a Saturday. There were some very obvious entries (HAPPYDAYS was a gimme). There were some that I just knew (PELOTA), which made the SE my first completed corner. APBS, NEET, and ADLAI all were quick nails, and FUNGUS and RHO were also pretty quick. That allowed me to first answer GIRLGROUP, and I also gave me USHER___. I ended up deducing the end to that, as well as the final long entry.
I then moved up to the NW. I had already put in Mork’s intro series, and I guessed 1-D as the only Hawaiian word I knew that fit the H as the 3rd letter, MAHALO. Just like the SE, OSTE and LIAR were quite easy to guess, and that led to Ms. Morrisette’s first name and KEPTAT. The younger Pelosi’s first name was then completed as well as 1-Across.
My first real tricky part came in deducing the long 8-Down. I started with CRYstal___IST for some odd reason, but that didn’t make any sense. So I then revised to CRYPTO___IST, which was much more in line with the unknown nature of Sasquatch. Of course, thinking in terms of base sciences, I completed CRYPTObioLOGIST. I got enough from that to go to the NE and complete that section (PAT BENATAR threw me fits, I had __TBEN___ and all I could see is the last name BENNETT. Until I wrote in INTERIOR, I was lost on that one. Then it clicked of course). Eventually I figured out that an ending Z would be better in the Polish town near Warsaw, which led to CRYPTOZOOLOGIST.
The other real tough one for me was [Drummer with a star on the Walk of Fame]. I went through many iterations of rock stars, jazz greats, and march masters in my mind trying to discern ___D__DPE__ER. Guessing LLOYD helped me to fill in PLOW, which gave me my break to get WOODY WOODPECKER (see below for discussion.) It helped me start to whittle down the SW, which had some doozies. I did have LINER from early on (sports fan and all). LOGOS should have been easier than I made it, but I did have the ___ING of 34-D from the tense of the clue. After getting WOODY, OSMOSING was getable (which seems made up, but I’ll go with it). I have no clue who Walter WINCHELL was, but I do now. The puzzle was completed with the Neapolitan song O SOLE MIO.
FAVORITE ENTRY: EYESTALK. I didn’t realize that shrimp’s eyes protruded on stalks. I probably should have known, but then again I hate seafood. So there.
FAVORITE CLUE: [Time release] = ISSUE. A nice deception there. In today’s pharmaceutical society, it’s a clue that immediately scream, “The magazine!!!”
LEAST FAVORITE ENTRY: AQI - I assumed it was Air Quality Index, which it is upon looking it up. In a Saturday, not everything is going to be mainstream. Mr. Lahoud is also a bit obscure.
GENERAL IMPRESSIONS: A great puzzle in my opinion. Not a whole lot of junk - yes a number of first names (ADA, ALEC, LANI, EMILE), but my real qualm with this is WOODY WOODPECKER being called a, “drummer.” A drummer plays a drum, which unless I’m missing something he plays the tree with his beak. If you want to say, “percussionist,” that is accurate.
DAILY DIFFICULTY: 5/10
OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10
The way winter is meant to be… (at Outer Cathead )
This is the first time attempting to blog via my Smartphone, so hope it turns out alright!
PUZZLE: Friday, December 28 New York Times Crossword
CONSTRUCTOR: Ashton Anderson (Will Shortz Ed.)
PUZZLE TYPE: Themeless
DESIGN: Pancakes of 9 or 8 in each corner. No entry longer than 9 letters, tends to leave things in the realm of 1- and 2-word entries…which tends to make for an easier offering.
SOLVING: I had trouble with this one. Maybe it was because I tried to solve this in the car with my wife driving, maybe the clues just eluded me. The SE corner came first for me. It started with the crossing XENON and GENXERS (my chem degree coming in handy). Assumed PGA and SETTER (a great last letter entry), and that helped me to get GRATIS. The rest of the corner was a piece of cake after that.
The other 3 sections were more trying. I should have guessed ENCHILADA right off but it slipped my mind. GOING APE was a help, and I figured YALIE was right. That led to IDES and finally NAMEDROP in the NW. At that point I had tried to end the Natalie Portman entry with ___ISRAEL because I knew she was born there. With the ending M, JERUSALEM became obvious.
SW and NE was the order of finish…EL CHEAPO gave me fits until I got it. That ended up unlocking the final corner.
FAVORITE ENTRY: SCHNAPPS. Why not? It’s almost New Year’s Eve after all.
LEAST FAVORITE ENTRY: ENLACE [Intertangle] - a bit contrived, but it’s tough to avoid crosswordese in themeless puzzles.
CONTEXTUAL DIFFICULTY: 8/10
OVERALL RATING: 8/10
Puzzle: December 20, 2012 brendanemmettquigley.com Crossword
Title: Speaking In Code
Puzzle Type: Themed
Theme: Common phrases containing a part which can relate in one sense or another to encoding messages. Entries are then clued cleverly to connect to ciphering.
SUBSTITUTETEACH (15) - [Give someone the skills to do a simple cipher?]
SHIFTGEARS (10) - [Rotating parts of the Enigma machine?]
KEYWITNESS (10) - [Person who saw how a Vigenare cipher was created?]
LETTERSOFINTENT (15) [What you mean a code to conceal?]
Solving: A pretty easy puzzle to knock down. North and northeast came first, then ended up switching to the southeast snd working my way into that long 15 along the south. Central layer and northwest finished it off. The only entry that really threw me off a bit was [“The Human ___” (Philip Roth)], for which I had __AIN. I chose BRAIN, but eventually realized that STAIN was the correct answer.
Favorite Entry: [Hybrid sport that alternatingly takes place in a ring and on a board] = CHESSBOXING. Never had heard of such a thing, but check here if you’re interested.
Overall Difficulty - 3/10
Overall Rating - 7/10
Puzzle: Saturday, December 22, 2012 New York Times Crossword
Constructor: Tim Croce (Will Shortz Ed.)
Puzzle Type: Themeless
Design: 59 words, 37 black squares. One of those nice Saturday designs which offers pancaked 15’s. This has pancakes of 3-15s at the top and bottom. To get a 15 letter entry in Row 1, you must have 2 stacks of three. A) Symmetry dictates another 15 at Row 15; B) A black square in the 2nd row would leave a letter unchecked (i.e. each letter must be in both across and down entries) - that’s a no-no; and C) A black square in 3rd row would create a two letter down entry - another no-no. There are a total of 8 15-letter entries.
Solving: Actually, the first 3/4 of this puzzle was a breeze. 16-Across seemed like it would be simple, with something like GLOBAL EMISSIONS, and when I guessed EBAY that seemed to corroborate. But my knowledge of NFL gave me RONS, which put an O after the B in 16-A. That meant a little more brainpower, and CARBON was another solid choice for the start of that 15. Indeed, that toppled most of the early section. I STAND ___ quickly became evident, and CORRECTED was the logical conclusion to that entry.
I tried bridging down to the central section, but I met a roadblock. So I dropped to the bottom and found gold. RONI and MPAA got me started, then I went over and assumed former Univ of Michigan Head Coach Lloyd CARR was in the Hall Of Fame. My first inclination when looking at 53-A was DISASTER RELIEF, but it wasn’t 15 letters. Yet CARR, ESCE, and then DEN really cinched DISASTER ___. Eventually I got the down crossers and hit all three 15’s.
The middle section was the toughest for me, I ended up with the East quadrant filled as well as EASTERN AIRLINES, but couldn’t make out 22-A. I ended up researching Afghanistan to learn about HERAT, a rather mundane province and capital. The rest ended up getting knocked out after that.
Favorite Entry: [Going along the line, briefly?] - ONED. Mathematical trick clue. Maybe it’s been used before, I’ve never seen it, and when you’re used to thinking 1D, 2D, 3D, it does lead to the “a-ha.”
Least Favorite Entry: HERAT - discussed earlier. Have to cut some slack for a themeless with stacks…the funny thing is that this wasn’t necessary to help complete either of the triple stacks though.
Contextual Difficulty: 3/10 (pretty easy for a Saturday)
Overall Rating: 8/10 (quite lively fill, of course it’s going to be tough on a Saturday)
Been a bit since I’ve written about puzzles…I’m gonna try to keep going from here on out. This was yesterday’s NYT.
Puzzle: Friday, December 21 2012 New York Times
Author: Zoe Wheeler (Will Shortz, Ed.)
Puzzle Type: Themeless 15x15
Design: 28 black squares (12.4%). Two 15-letter across entries placed 3rd row from edge. The NW and SE corners contain the termini of 9-9-7 pancakes. One might expect this to have another long entry crossing both of the 15’s. It’s a little more constricted than many themeless puzzles.
Solving: After a few glances over the clues, the crossing RAE and DIANE were cake to scribble in. Then thinking back to Sarah McLachlan’s hit ADIA got me even further along. A guess at AGE gave me a possible combination to the end of 2-Down, ___ING. 26-Across’s start was A, and the clue [Minimally] meant that it was likely a 2 or 3 word combination starting with AT. I also had a hunch 1-Across was SCI(ence). That meant C___TING for 2-Down. The logical guess for that was COHOSTING.
That ended up confirming some of my guesses. That allowed me to get THE BOOK OF ____, which I couldn’t quite remember but eventually had MORMON pop to mind. The rest of the way followed that long entry to the NE corner, then down the central corridor to the bottom portions.
Favorite Entry: [Ring with a face attached] = SKYPE. Nice to have modern technology appear in crosswords.
Least Favorite: [“___ And The Real Girl” (2007 Ryan Gosling film)] = LARS. I’m not into modern chick flicks. I’ve not heard one iota about.
Contextual Difficulty: 5/10
Overall Rating: 7.5/10
Saturday, December 1, 2010 Los Angeles Times Crossword
Constructor: Barry C. Silk; Editor: Rich Norris
Puzzle Theme: Themeless
Design Considerations: 15X15. Two 14-letter down entries are the longest, and they are each a part of a 9-7-14 sandwich. Then along the horizontal plane, there is an 8-8-9 direct piggyback, with another 9 connecting in three positions. It’s a pretty nice grid, especially once you start getting some of the fill nailed down.
Solving: After 12D, being a sports nut, VLAD Guerrero was an easy get at 26D. After getting crossers at 10-, 23- and 25A, the long 14-letter TARGETPRACTICE was a pretty easy guess for a guy who has done his share of hunting. That helped me get around the upper east section, and then down in the lower east (another sports reference with Tom Brady’s spouse GISELE).
The entire west side was a bit of a struggle, mostly because I chose ROQUEFORT for the [Brie alternative] when CAMEMBERT was correct. Guessing RIVER correctly for the end of the other 14-letter entry was good, but choosing WINNEBAGO was not. While that is a midwestern river, it feeds the Mississippi, not Lake Michigan. After some erasing and resolving the upper west, I got enough of KALAMAZOO to then complete the remainder of the puzzle.
Worst Section: In the upper west, MARLA and ILONA are two somewhat obscure actress names crossing.
All in all, an enjoyable themeless that had some difficulty, but also had minimal poor fill.
Contextual Difficulty: 7/10
Overall Rating: 9/10
Friday, November 30, 2012 - I Swear/Daily Record Puzzle
Constructor/Editor: Victor Fleming
Puzzle Theme: Quotation Puzzle, with speaker
Design Notes: 15X15; 40 theme squares, 2 9-letter and 2 11-letter. The 11-letter entries connect to complete the quote. One 9-letter is the subject of the quote’s direction, and other was the speaker. There are two 9-letter down entries which do not correlate at all to the theme (although Twain also was responsible for calling golf, “A good walk spoiled’, and I would imagine he used a semicolon or two in his time.).
Completion Time: 9:02
The Adventure: This is a relatively easy encounter, which is always helpful when dealing with a quotation puzzle. Crossers are usually needed to help flush out the theme entries, and that was also the case here. 6D - SAINTE was a good place to start. The theme entries more-or-less fell from top to bottom for me. The Daily Record puzzles tend to have some law-based fill, though 53D is the only one that was obscure for a non-legal type like myself.
Overall rating: 4/10. Aside from the legalese, quite easy, and quotation themes aren’t typically my cup of tea.