Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tour de France (Sunday brunch: July 14, 2013)

For many years July in our house means watching the Tour de France.  The recent doping scandals and revelations tarnish the individuals involved, but they don't detract from the drama of the event itself.

Once you get to know the event and some of the personalities, your enjoyment of the Tour increases exponentially.  There is a lot more to it than who will wear the yellow jersey in Paris: the effort of the leaders' teammates to set the pace, throw off opponents, and deliver their man to the finish; the opportunistic riders who go off in a breakaway and the tactical riding of the sprinters' teams to keep the break from getting too far ahead; and much more.

The scenery and the crowds also make the event.  There are many familiar faces: human (commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen; The Devil, who shows up during the mountain stages), and non-human (the familiar curves of Alpe d'Huez).

Today is one of two "queen stages" of the Tour: days expected to be the toughest and most decisive.  Today's stage finishes with the long lonely climb up Mont Ventoux, while Thursday the race climbs the Alpe not once but twice.  I'll bet fans are already camping out there today in order to get the best viewing points.  There'll be a quarter million lining the road there by Thursday, and they'll get a fabulous show.  Check your local listings, so you can be there in spirit.

As frequently happens, acrostics show up together this weekend.  The Wall Street Journal's acrostic (Java link) is by Mike Shenk.  Not many comments posted so far, but the majority note it is fairly difficult.  I don't think it had the polish of Hex's acrostics (of which there is one behind the New York Times paywall), but I liked the fill (aside from the one which obviously was the last one Shenk clued--J): a reggae artist, a backgammon game popular in the Navy, and a nice, happy pop song.

The new Harpers is out, with Richard Maltby's variety cryptic, but there are no recent posts over at Erica's blog.  She must be busy with her video directing.  Nathan Curtis also informs us he doesn't have much to say, but there is an Around the Bend puzzle for us this week.

There's a BEQ cryptic I missed last week (#553 if you're counting), and the regularly scheduled Hex cryptic in the National Post.  For the latter, a little French will help, but I think there's not enough there to call it a themed puzzle.

And hooray, hooray: Xanthippe is now offering printer-friendly versions of her (British) cryptics, starting with her Opus 10.  Go visit, solve, and comment.  Xanthippe is eager to improve her work, and she's blogging about the constructing experience as well as sharing her puzzles with us.  

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