Friday, July 18, 2014

Seeing a pattern? (solution no. 1,066)

The solution to The Nation puzzle no. 1,066 (from 50 years ago last week) is below the fold.

Boy that was tough.  I had to resort to the answer key six times there, but when a puzzle combines very obscure words with non-Ximenean cluing, it’s gonna be murder.  Much of the rest needed intersecting letters, and in a few cases I still don’t have a clue about what Frank Lewis was intending.  Can any of you figure them out?

On the other hand, I’ve found a Shakespeare reference in each of the Lewis puzzles we’ve tackled so far.  Was this a signature?

Scorecard (Puzzle No. 3,331)

Still owe you a solution to 1,066—it’s pretty hard.

As Hot and Trazom hinted a few weeks ago, we have a variety cryptic this week in The Nation. Variety cryptics usually but do not always have a bar-style grid instead of a block grid.  The thing that defines a variety cryptic is some kind of systematic breaking of the basic rules.  It could be an alteration to some of the clues, an alteration to some answers before they go into the grid, a set of unclued answers or answers which are not numbered so you have to sort out where they go.  It can get much more complicated from there, working up to the well-loved forms seen regularly in The Listener and in Harper’s and the intricate and unique twists Kevin Wald creates.  This puzzle is an invitation to explore that universe.

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle):  Easy.  I think that was intentional, as a means of not scaring solvers off from trying a variety puzzle.  Still, there were some good spots of misdirection to trap solvers who want things to be too proper.

Hozom’s comment: “Writing a letter,” in which Hot and Trazom explain how constructors get and use single letters in their clues.  There’s a lot of opportunity for misdirection here if constructors are alert and creative.

Cluing challenge: “HORSESHOE

We got a nice comment a coupla weeks ago correcting an earlier post about the MIT Mystery Hunt.

Erin Rhode wrote:
>>Sometimes I Google myself to see what comes up... regarding the Mystery
>>Hunt cryptic, while I wasn't an author, I was an editor. The original idea
>>was Aaron Bader's, Kevin Der wrote the grid (and holy crap, I still don't
>>know how he did that), and Aaron and Dan Katz wrote the clues.

So I looked up Erin, and interestingly, she fit right into the topic I’d planned on using this week.  The Major League Baseball All-Star Game was held Tuesday, and it brought to mind my habit of keeping a scorecard when I go to the ballpark.  My earliest recollection of scoring a game was watching an All-Start game on TV when I was about 12.  I made up my own form for it, with a ruler and ball-point pen, and eventually used a ditto master to print a bunch of them.  Like so much else, the computer makes it a lot easier today, but I still use a scorecard of my own design, with a few quirks like spaces designated to record hot dogs, cheesesteaks, and beer consumed by the scorer.

So I wonder if the same geek gene that’s responsible for an interest in cryptic crosswords and other odd puzzles also drives an instinct to keep score at the ballgame.  It’s worth doing if you’re at the game: not just for the bleacher cred (Erin subtitles her blog “Don’t try to show up the chick with the scorebook.”), but also because you might end up with the greatest souvenir, as when a college friend of ours went to a Braves game and ended up scoring a no-hitter.

Erin linked a couple more puzzles from the Mystery Hunt: I’ll add them to this weekend’s Sunday brunch.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Germany 2, Argentina 0 (Sunday brunch: July 13, 2014)

It’s a good thing Sabers doesn’t have school tomorrow: he and just about everyone else in Bad Reichenhall going to be up late celebrating a World Cup win for Germany.  No better time for a sports-minded kid to go on an exchange student trip than during the World Cup.

Argentina’s coach thinks his team will have to play a perfect game in order to win, and I agree with him.  The German defense is better than that of the Dutch who managed to figure out Messi and minimize (though not eliminate) his opportunities to create a goal.  The first half will look like the Brazil-Netherlands third-place game, minus the penalty that I thought should have been just outside the box.   Germany will have the majority of possession early on, and Klose will put one away.  Then another goal late as the Argentines press for the equalizer.

While you’re waiting for kickoff, you can solve these puzzles.  Still no World Cup themes in the cryptic realm though.

The Wall Street Journal has an easy variety cryptic by Hex called “Family Reunion.”  As usual, the solution is elsewhere on the blog.  Falcon reports that Hex’s weekly straight cryptic in the National Post is also easier than usual.

Want something harder?  Take on Fraser Simpson’s puzzle in the Globe and Mail.  Or (as we catch up with Kevin Wald) “Catching Four,” his contribution to the Post Hunt in Washington (knowing that fact might help you work out one of the themes).

The New York Times variety puzzle (behind the paywall) is a Hex acrostic.  Commentary (and spoilers) from Deb Amlen at Wordplay.

Before you go, don’t forget that Trip Payne’s 2014 Extravaganza is going to start August 1.  Sign up here.  Ten bucks for twelve puzzles plus a meta, and two solvers with correct answers win $100.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wall Street Journal solution: July 12, 2014

Below the fold is the solution to this weekend’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle, a cryptic by Hex titled “Family Reunion.”

Once you’re done with that one, why not try your hand at writing a cryptic clue?  This week’s cluing challenge is NAT HENTOFF.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cluing challenge (July 10, 2014): NAT HENTOFF

Hot and Trazom frequently work names into their cryptic crosswords, both in clues and in answers.  I like that idea, since it’s a source for fresh wordplay.  Dedicating a post to Nat Hentoff becomes a pretty easy choice when you start looking at all the cluing possibilities.

How would you clue NAT HENTOFF?

Nat Hentoff (Puzzle No. 1,066)

July 6, 1964 puzzle courtesy of The Nation.
Click here for printable version.
As I was browsing through the 1964 reel of The Nation to find this puzzle, I spotted an article by jazz critic Nat Hentoff. I like jazz, and I’ve read one of Hentoff’s books and plenty of his columns—but not this one.  Here’s his June 22, 1964 lede.

Some weeks ago, Eric Dolphy, an explosively original jazz saxophonist and clarinetist, left for Europe as a sideman with a small combo.  He isn’t coming back.  I asked a musician friend of his why Dolphy had decided to become an expatriate.  “Nothing’s happening over here,” was the answer.  “If he has to scuffle over there, at least he’ll have a change of scenery.”

Dolphy and a few others excepted, the younger avant-garde jazz players remain, although their expectations are increasingly bleak.  Jazz was never a popular music; but by contrast with the present, there have been periods during which it made partial breakthroughs to a sizable public, thereby providing reasonably steady work for the uncompromising improvisers as well as for the popularizers.   

Fifty years later, Hentoff is still on the beat (pun intended).  Last week, his column, now in the Wall Street Journal, explains the thinking of his friend Charles Mingus:

Mingus never believed his music was "too difficult" for players of any age once they knew their instruments and were driven by his music to find themselves in it. As Mrs. Mingus wrote in her absorbing book, "Tonight at Noon: A Love Story," that I reread when I need to be lifted by both of them, Mingus used to holler to his musicians "Play yourself!"

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hup Holland! (Solution No. 3,330)

The solution to puzzle no. 3,330 is below the fold.

Now that the USA has been eliminated from the World Cup (after a more than satisfactory run), I can cheer in good conscience for The Netherlands.  I’ve visited Holland three times, one of those trips coinciding with their hosting the European championship in 2000.  The whole country turned orange, and the fans were raucous.  Crazy often, drunk sometimes, but never out of line.

I was there for a scientific conference in The Hague, and on the last day, I wore a necktie I bought at one of the local stores.  It was bright orange with a soccer player and a Dutch flag.  Perfectly versatile: it clashes with everything.  I still have the tie, and get it out every four years for the World Cup.

I also appreciate the Oranje style of play: more unscripted than the Spanish and German teams, more disciplined than the Brazilians.  And how about that use of a designated goalie for the penalty shootout against the determined Ticos?  I did the same thing in 2008 when I was coaching Sabers’ soccer team. We survived the shootout and went on to win the championship.  Can the Oranje do the same?