Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trivia (Puzzle No. 3,301)

Any resemblance
to my boss is
One of the little details that separate great constructors from the rest is the way they can keep clues fresh.  One way is to throw in a bit of trivia.  Patrick Berry did that with his Wall Street Journal puzzle last weekend.

The answer (third in Wave 2) was “IDENTIKIT”: the tool police departments use to help witnesses develop a composite drawing of a suspect or of a missing person.  Now it’s highly unlikely that anyone other than someone who makes or uses the product would know, so it was really of little or no solving value, but Berry threw us a little nugget of novelty, adding “developed by Smith and Wesson” at the end of the clue.

Now most of us know Smith and Wesson for making guns (a former work colleague liked to use “Smith and Wesson” as hypothetical authors when we were discussing how to search for, analyze, or cite medical literature), so it’s a bit amusing to see their name in connection with something else.  Kind of like how I felt when I saw a General Motors logo on our Frigidaire when I was a kid.

There are lots of such factoids out there, like all the actors who were born in Canada or what “meow” is in other languages.  It wouldn’t be hard to pick out a couple of such facts, or a set of them, and work them into your clues.    

It wasn’t trivia, but something did start to smell funny about a quarter of the way through this week’s The Nation cryptic crossword.  Sure enough, the last row confirms our suspicions.

Link to puzzle:

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): hard--some more complex wordplay than usual, an obscure word you can get if you think about it carefully, an author, and a famous scientist.

Hozom’s comment: One on One, Part 2, in which we learn that Hot grew up in Lebanon: the one not in Tennessee or Pennsylvania; and that his approach to British cryptics is the same as mine--the satisfaction of solving good clues is more important than the frustration at not finishing the puzzle.  Sounds like both our constructors have some more interesting personal stories to tell, so maybe we’ll get parts 3 and 4 at some later date.

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