Monday, April 28, 2014

Another official in the family (Solution No. 3,323)

Philip (the class of the division), Sabers, and Willie
Well that was an interesting weekend.  Sabers punched his ticket to Nationals and we upped number of officiating credentials in the family by 67%.

After stepping in to referee a few bouts at the fencing tournament a few weeks ago so one of our originally-scheduled refs could compete and qualify the tournament for a higher rating, I figured I should get properly trained and tested. The club had a seminar Saturday, and I passed the test with flying colors—interpreting and explaining why a point in line wasn’t valid, and then spotting the missing tip screw in an epee. So now I have a third refereeing certification. I’m pretty sure there’s never been another combination hockey, fencing, and cricket official before.

Then The Other Doctor Mitchell got a call Sunday morning: one of the people assisting with the skating competition at her club had to go to the hospital—could she come early and serve as accountant?  She agreed, and when she got there, the head accountant explained the basics of the job and said he’d guide her through it.  He didn’t know that the essentials of the job: entering and organizing data, spotting errors and inconsistencies, and staying cool under pressure happen to be The Other Doctor Mitchell’s fortes.  By the end of the day, he was insisting that he put her name in to the USFSA to be added to their roster of officials.  That’s great because even if she doesn’t get paid for this, they’ll take care of travel expenses for events that she works, possibly some of the events Bangle will be skating at this fall.  That will come at a good time, since she’s up to the level now where she and her mom are both on track to qualify for their respective Nationals.

Not quite flying colors on this puzzle though.  I can’t fully parse 13d.  Any of you get it?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Valencia (Sunday brunch: April 27, 2014)

Continuing the wine theme, let me tell you about how I found a soccer allegiance.  When Sabers started German in seventh grade, the teacher had an exercise where each of the students was given a Bundesliga team to follow.  It gave them something to read about and to talk about in class, and played into the sports interests of the typical teenager.  Sabers’s team was Hoffenheim, and I still keep an eye on their results each weekend.

That’s nice, but I should have a team too.  But I don’t any direct connections to Europe (the other Doctor Mitchell was born in Ingolstadt); how do I pick one?  Go with the herd and buy a Barcelona or Manchester United jersey?  How unoriginal.  Then I found an inspiration.  In my wine cellar is a collection of mourvèdres: mourvèdre bring a flavorful but somewhat uncommon grape of the Rhône. There aren’t any big-time soccer teams in Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Contra Costa county, but there are in eastern Spain.  So I picked up a map of La Liga teams, located Jumilla, and saw that the home team there is Valencia.

Anyone else have some soccer stories to share?  Are there any teams out there with jerseys that could pass for a crossword grid?

Erica has blogged this month’s Harper’s and also introduces us to the mercenary she brought in to win the Chicago bedbug wars.  On top of that we learn that Erica likes anagrams almost as much as she likes salads.

Trip Payne has announced his annual Extravaganza; ten bucks gets you a dozen puzzles, a meta, and a crack at a $100 prize to be awarded to two solvers who submit correct solutions by the deadline.

Also vieing for your puzzling dollar is Peter Gordon of Fireball Crosswords, who’s announced another Kickstarter project for a series of bi-weekly crosswords filled with answers ripped from the headlines, or as Peter puts it: “All the News That Fits Symmetrically.”  Subscriptions start at six bucks for twenty crosswords, and the funding is open through June 15.

The weekday cryptic in the National Post is syndicated from the Daily Telegraph (London), running several months behind.  So on Tuesday they ran DT 27,367: their puzzle commemorating the 100th anniversary of the crossword, and Christmas fell on Wednesday (links are to Falcon, who shares Big Dave’s posts and adds some notes on degree of difficulty).  Even if Brit cryptics aren’t your cup of tea, this is worth trying.

Patrick Berry fans, raise a glass. Your favorite constructor is at work in the weekend Wall Street Journal, with a Section Eight.  Hints are posted.

Regular service resumes north of the border.  After two weeks of harder-than-usual puzzles, this weekend’s National Post puzzle (blogged by Falcon) is fairly easy.  The Globe and Mail puzzle by Fraser Simpson is hard.

The New York Times variety puzzle (behind the paywall) is a Split Decisions.  I get the impression that Deb Amlen isn’t a fan either.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wall Street Journal hints (April 26, 2014)

Below the fold are some hints for this weekend’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle: a Section Eight by Patrick Berry.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What? He drinks on the job? Intoxicated Braze can’t define ln (Puzzle No. 3,323)

I normally avoid buying a bottle of wine just because there’s a cute animal, a bad pun, or some other attraction on the label, but sometimes you have to make an exception.  With a name like Cryptic Red, I had to check this out.  However, the contents looked interesting as well.  I’m partial to traditional (think Bordeaux) and non-traditional blends, both red and white: they’re a lot like combining different types of wordplay in a clue for a more complex and challenging solve.

Tasting notes: Nice medium garnet color,  off-clear (which is good: not excessively filtered), leggy.  Tart cherry aromas getting broader with more time in the glass.  Big mouthfilling start continues with the cherry flavors giving way to blackberry peppery zinfandel in the middle.  Medium-full body, substantive.  Pleasant medium-length finish with clean raspberry fruit and light tannins, a little warm (14.3%).  Very impressive: excellent winemaking and blending, a serious wine to accompany good food.  The only disappointment with this wine was the lame anagramming on the back label identifying the contents as a cabernet sauvignon/zinfandel/petite sirah blend.  (score 8/10).

Here’s this week’s puzzle

Link to puzzle 

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): easy to moderate

Hozom’s comment: And the Lits Keep on Coming! in which Hot and Trazom crow over some of their favorite exclamation point clues.  Now there’s something for an intrepid crossword statistician to analyze: what constructors come up with the most and lits, and who can keep up the longest batting streak of including one in each regularly scheduled puzzle?

Weekly cluing challenge over at Word Salad: LITERAL

Monday, April 21, 2014

Payday (Solution No. 3,322)

Look below the fold for the solution to The Nation puzzle no. 3,322

One of the questions I’m frequently asked about refereeing is what we get paid.  I’m fortunate enough that the money isn’t as important as the physical and mental workout and as staying involved in the game even in my 50s, but the financial side was on my mind last week: first doing my accounting for tax purposes, and second because one of the paychecks I was waiting for from late 2013 finally arrived.

The short answer is that our game fees are on the order of $30 to $65 for youth games, depending on level, $80 to $100 or more for top-tier juniors if you’re good enough, and $60 to $80 for men’s league. There are a few programs that pay less (I’m not going to do any games for the rink that paid me only $20.00 for a single where I had to leave for the rink at 6:00 am).

When I finished my tax return, the bottom line was a small net income to declare, which means in effect that refereeing successfully paid for my trip to State Games on top of other expenses like the new helmet and visor.  Since I knew my expenses in 2013 were going to be fairly high, that was a satisfactory outcome.

Most officials work more games in a season than I do, and make more money, but they don’t have the family commitments (or the outside interests).  I’ll admit those men’s league doubleheaders are sweet when the checks come in though.  As long as my hockey avocation is earning money rather than costing it, I’ll be satisfied.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Holy Week (Sunday brunch: April 20, 2014)

Happy Easter to all, and a joyous Passover as well.  I think these holidays are best when you get a good story to tell out of them.  This year, one of Bangle’s classmates was scheduled to lead the Palm Sunday procession over to St. Luke’s, where we join with our neighbor churches for the blessing of the palms. But she got hit with a softball Saturday and was sporting a lovely black eye.  Of course she went ahead and led the procession, and her father made sure to get lots of pictures.

“Truly, I tell you: one of you will betray me tonight.”
da Vinci’s painting brought to life in Glenside.
Usually during Holy Week, we’ll have the Passion story read at least once, if not twice, but this year for Good Friday, we instead heard the Living Last Words, a companion work to the Living Last Supper that our church has put on the past several years.  Both pieces tell the narrative as seen through the eyes of the participants.

The teens were the performers in the Living Last Words, and Sabers (as the centurion) and Bangle (as the shepherd) gained much praise for their portrayals.

Meanwhile, my friend Burt scored the one-liner of the season: “I thought my wife and I would never hear those words from my daughter: ‘Let’s have the Seder at our house this year.’”

Got a story to share?  Comments are open.  On to the weekend’s puzzles.

The Wall Street Journal has a Hex variety cryptic: quite appropriately an Egg Hunt.  The solution is posted elsewhere on the blog.  Ask there if you need any of the clues explained; some of them are pretty clever.

Falcon found the Hex straight cryptic in the National Post to be harder than usual for the second week in a row.  I thought the same, and we probably both finished on the same answer.  And the Fraser Simpson puzzle from the Globe and Mail (printable, Java) was pretty hard too.

We learn this week from her latest Brit cryptic that LizR likes King Crimson.

The New York Times puzzle (behind the paywall) is a Hex acrostic.  Deb Amlen has comments and some answers at Wordplay.

If you didn’t see the update to Thursday’s post, Puzzazz released a new book of variety crosswords by Mike Shenk, and it shows off the advantages of the app really well.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wall Street Journal solution (April 19, 2014)

Below the fold is the solution to this weekend’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle: a cryptic Egg Hunt by Hex.  If you want explanations of any of the clues, please ask in the comments section.

I have links to more cryptics for you each week: The Nation puzzles by Hot and Trazom on Thursdays (solved and annotated the following Monday) and a puzzle buffet for you each weekend on Sunday Brunch.  Join us, won’t you?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mike Shenk (Puzzle No.3,322)

Here’s a nice article about Mike Shenk, who’s assembled a fine team of constructors for the Wall Street Journal and contributes various puzzles of his own to the paper.  We cryptic fans should be eternally grateful that Mike convinced the Journal to pick up the monthly variety cryptic by Hex after The Atlantic stopped publishing it.  While Mike lives in New York now, he’s a native of Lancaster County, PA, where Hex call home.

Can you tell the difference between a horse and a mule?
Photo courtesy
If you haven’t been to that part of Pennsylvania, it’s worth a visit, for the rolling hills, the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, cultural attractions, fresh air, and the people you’ll meet.  From time to time I have business in Harrisburg, but never get much work done on the train trip from Philadelphia because I’m looking out at the scenery on the way.  Being the puzzler like you, I challenge myself each trip to try and spot an Amish farmer working his field with a team of horses, spot a horse and buggy, the Strasburg steam train, and some mules.

Update: I forgot to mention that there is a nice new Puzzazz book of variety puzzles by Mike called “Puzzability’s Variety Show,” so if you have a copy of the app, look in the Featured Titles section for it.  There are 27 of his variety crosswords like Spell Weaving and Snowflakes for a very reasonable $5.99.  

A nice themed puzzle in The Nation this week, and I won’t say anything more so as not to give anything away.

Link to puzzle:

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate.  Once you get the theme, several answers will become apparent.

Hozom’s comment:  “On Beauty,” in which Hot and Trazom think that they shall never see a poem lovely as 8d.

Weekly cluing challenge: ANTHOLOGIST (note: not “anthropologist”). 

Back with the solution and full annotation on Monday.  Post questions in the meantime, and join us on the weekend for Sunday brunch!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Épée (Solution No. 3,321)

And to top it off, the guy
on the medal is  a lefty too...
The solution and annotation to puzzle no. 3,321 is below the fold.

Well that was a lovely coincidence.  “Épée” showed up in two puzzles this week, and I was absolutely chuffed because I had this shiny new bit of metal hanging up in my office.  Even better that Hot and Trazom used that word to clue “lunge”: does one of them fence?

While I’ve coached and refereed all that time, and you’ve seen some of the medals my family has earned, I hadn’t actually competed in an athletic event in 25 years or so before this winter, when I fenced a couple of saber tournaments so there’d be enough competitors for the event to be rated.  During one of them, I realized I was getting touches more like an épée than a saber, so maybe I should try that weapon.

There were two novice-level épée tournaments this month.  I did more than OK in the first one: won two bouts, finished fifth out of nine, and didn’t feel like a fool or a stranger in a game where slashing and spearing is not only legal but encouraged.  But I knew I made a bunch of mistakes that the more experienced fencers (all of them!) exploited. Fortunately, Margo and Steve were kind enough to take me aside at practice and show me what I was doing wrong.  So I was better-prepared for the second tournament, which was last Sunday.

I got encouragement from winning the first bout, and when I beat the fencer I thought would be a medal favorite, all of a sudden there was a possibility of winning a medal myself.  Sticking with what was working, I finished the pool round with 4 wins and only 1 loss, good enough for a bye to the quarterfinal.  One bout away from a medal!  I traded scouting reports with one of Sabers’s friends who faced my quarterfinal opponent in the pool round, and though I fell behind 6-2 in the early going, I was definitely seeing scoring opportunities.   Even though I was still behind by 10-8 when the first period ended, I felt I was in control of the bout, and I pulled into the lead soon after.  A double touch made it 14-13, and I had two chances to close it out.  I only needed one, and the final was 15-13.

Bronze medal clinched, I didn’t let up in the semi, but the attack line I was using went right into my opponent’s parry, and I couldn’t find another way to score.  But it didn’t matter: I fenced much better than the week before, surpassed my goal going into the tournament, and even won a medal.  Big celebration at practice this week with thanks (and beers) to the coaches.

Hozom’s comment 4/10 (extra post)

This week’s installment of Word Salad didn’t get posted until the evening, so I couldn’t include a comment in the puzzle no. 3,321 post.  I’ll update that post and also double-up the material here.

Hozom’s comment: “Sam Who?” in which Hot and Trazom field complaints over general knowledge and cultural literacy (not theirs, but what they expect of their solvers).  They might have cherry-picked some particularly favorable examples in Satchmo and Sam Spade, but I agree that solvers would be poorer off if such references, even to the latest vapid pop stars were ruled out of the puzzles.

Look at it this way: one of the things you hope to get out of solving a cryptic is the intellectual stimulation of seeing words and phrases in new ways: things like clever and fitting anagrams or a funny Spoonerism.  Learning a new fact or two along the way ought to give you the same kind of reward, not to mention a more rounded intellect to engage with the world around you.  

If you're still not convinced, consider that that person or work of art in the cryptic clue you're thinking of carping about might show up in another puzzle somewhere else, so even if those facts have nothing to do with you or your cultural preferences, they'll make you a better solver.

Hot and Trazom are right on target in saying that an unfamiliar definition ought to be matched with straightforward wordplay.  I was going to say the same thing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Daffodils (Sunday brunch: April 13, 2014)

Lots of them left even after I cut three dozen.
The daylillies in this bed multiply just as well as
the daffodils. 
With the late spring, it’s been a peculiar year in the garden.  We had crocuses and daffodils at the same time, and the forsythia bloomed only this week.  The compressed schedule means that the daffodils came in about a two week span rather than three or four.  It does make an impressive show in the back yard, but the main reason I divide and transplant bulbs every year is to have more flowers to cut and share.

Some for the dining room table, some for the office, some for The Other Doctor Mitchell’s birthday (they’re her favorite flower), and even bunches to hand out to the winners of the fencing tournament today.

Finish these puzzles and earn yourself a virtual bouquet.

It was kind of a weird weekend.  I had a particularly tough time with the National Post puzzle by Hex, which usually is a breeze.  Falcon agreed, and gave us a breakdown of his solving effort on his blog.   Meanwhile, I got a lot more of Fraser Simpson’s Globe and Mail puzzle (Java, printable) than usual.

The New York Times variety puzzle was a Puns and Anagrams by Mel Taub (paywall).  That was hard too, and there are still a few clues I can’t parse.  However, I think I’m learning enough to get better at the genre, and also learning enough to understand why I don’t like them as much as proper cryptics: terseness of cluing is valued over elegance.  But I solved it, and the solution is posted elsewhere on the blog.  Deb Amlen solved it too, and blogs the puzzle (spoilers) at Wordplay.

Patrick Berry fans are happy: he has a Beginnings and Ends in the weekend’s Wall Street Journal.  Solution and hints are also posted elsewhere on the blog (please welcome our guests).

On the right is a drift of double daffodils, the genetics of which are described here (no, I’m not a flower geek, just a backyard gardener).

LizR has a new Brit cryptic up, which she says goes well with coffee.  Some delightful clues there, worth a go even if you won’t finish the puzzle.

The new Harper’s is out this week.  The Richard Maltby variety cryptic is that old The Listener favorite: Theme and Variations.  Erica (who survived the battle with the bedbugs) blogs this puzzle, though on a month’s delay because it’s a prize puzzle.

Flowers doing their intended job.
The women’s saber winners were Helen, Shelby, and Vanessa.

New York Times solution (April 13, 2014)

Below the fold is the solution to today’s New York Times variety puzzle, a Puns and Anagrams by Mel Taub.

More puzzles today and every week at Sunday brunch.  Join us, won’t you?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wall Street Journal solution (April 12, 2014)

Below the fold is the solution to this weekend’s Wall Street Journal puzzle, Beginnings and Ends by Patrick Berry.

More puzzles tomorrow and every weekend at Sunday brunch.  Come join us!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wall Street Journal hint (April 12, 2014)

Below the fold is a set of hints to the weekend’s Wall Street Journal puzzle, a variety crossword called Beginnings and Ends by Patrick Berry.

In the left column are the first words of each of the Ends clues.  The second column is the enumeration of the answer and the third column identifies the row or column it belongs in, numbered from 1 at the top (angling upwards) to 20 at the bottom (angling downwards).

When you’re done, stay for Sunday brunch with more cryptic and variety puzzles.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Puzzles for freedom? (Puzzle No. 3,321)

OK, now everything’s copacetic with and the new puzzle is up and visible.

Meanwhile, as the Venezuelan government cracks down on protesters and tightens currency controls amid growing shortages of basic goods like toilet paper, the government’s information minister has declared a new enemy: crossword puzzles.  While the minister doesn’t appear to be a skilled-enough solver to post the offending answers, she alleges that the newspaper El Arügueño is hiding anti-government messages in its crossword.

It wouldn’t be the first time such allegations have been made: in 2012, the puzzle constructor for Últimas Noticias, Neptalí Segovia, was hauled in to the intelligence ministry to explain a puzzle that was seen as a death threat against the regional governor, who happens to be President Maduro’s brother.  Segovia said the offending juxtaposition of words was just a coincidence, and he avoided punishment.

Now there are in fact puzzles that have included hidden messages: happy (marriage proposals) and sad (a farewell from a dying friend), so the idea isn’t so far-fetched.  Some constructors, like Kevin Wald, make an art of it.  Usually though, when there is an intended message or theme within a puzzle, the constructor will call it to attention somehow: either explicitly in the instructions or a clue, or by putting the message in an obvious place like the central row of the grid or the first letters of the clues.

Such messages have a long and noble history beyond the crossword, and indeed beyond the written word: one of the reasons I appreciate the music of Dimitri Shostakovich was his willingness to skate out at the edge of what the government would allow, and his use of music to challenge the authorities in the USSR.  We’re fortunate to live in a place where Hot and Trazom and their editors can sneak a message into a puzzle and not be afraid of being clapped into jail as a result.

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): moderate, with a few hard ones before you finish.  Be ready for twists!

Hozom’s comment: not up yet—watch this space. (updated Monday)  “Sam Who?” in which Hot and Trazom field complaints over general knowledge and cultural literacy (not theirs, but what they expect of their solvers).  They might have cherry-picked some particularly favorable examples in Satchmo and Sam Spade, but I agree that solvers would be poorer off if such references, even to the latest vapid pop stars were ruled out of the puzzles.

Look at it this way: one of the things you hope to get out of solving a cryptic is the intellectual stimulation of seeing words and phrases in new ways: things like clever and fitting anagrams or a funny Spoonerism.  Learning a new fact or two along the way ought to give you the same kind of reward, not to mention a more rounded intellect to engage with the world around you.  

If you're still not convinced, consider that that person or work of art in the cryptic clue you're thinking of carping about might show up in another puzzle somewhere else, so even if those facts have nothing to do with you or your cultural preferences, they'll make you a better solver.

Hot and Trazom are right on target in saying that an unfamiliar definition ought to be matched with straightforward wordplay.  I was going to say the same thing.

Back with the solution (and more 11) on Monday.  Join us as always this weekend for Sunday brunch.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Resiliency (Solution No. 3,320)

The solution to The Nation puzzle No. 3,320 is below the fold.

One of the reasons I like kid sports is the lessons you see kids learning.  Last weekend, Bangle was skating at the Morris Open, a big competition in North Jersey and the last event she’s going to do before moving up to the Juvenile level (which is the first level where they use the IJS [Olympic] scoring system.

She landed her initial jump combination cleanly, but then wobbled out of her camel spin and wound up going the wrong way.  Fortunately, she had the resiliency to figure out what happened and change part of her program on the fly.  After the skate, she felt awful about the mistake and was convinced that it wrecked her performance.  But it turned out that the other skaters fell on their combinations or had some weaknesses in their fundamental skating skills.  She wound up finishing second and qualifying for the trophy round of the competition, where she finished second again, this time getting the program right.

So we made the point to her that she won that medal by not dwelling on the mistake: by continuing on, doing the best she could, and presenting a positive image to the judges.  So in the Godspell performance yesterday, when her headset mike started sounding scratchy, she had the presence of mind to keep singing and then at the end of the number, go grab a hand mike to finish the show with.  

Great job, Bangle!

Godspell (Solution No. 3,319)

Light of the World
Scroll down for the solution to puzzle no. 3,319

A little theater for you in honor of this week’s theme: Bangle and Sabers in the church’s production of Godspell.  More pictures here.

Catchy music, colorful costumes, and a cast made up of kids from 3 to 18. That’s a sure-fire recipe for a real crowd-pleaser.  Kudos to music director Rae Ann Anderson for all her work on the production, and for having such confidence in the kids.

[ed. note: this post was back-dated to keep the solutions in order]

Showtime (Puzzle No. 3,319)

The theme answers in puzzle 3,319 are Broadway musicals, which was a perfectly timed theme.  Sabers and Bangle are performing in a church production of Godspell this weekend; it’s been one of my favorite shows ever since I saw the original cast off-Broadway in the 70s.

When the choir director announced the production, I did a little research and discovered that John-Michael Tebelak wrote Godspell as a senior project while he was in college (at Carnegie Mellon).  At that point, it was a straight play.  A few months later, Tebelak and the producers decided the show needed music, and reached out to another recent CMU alum, Stephen Schwartz, who composed the memorable songs.  

The show is notable for the number of now-famous performers who made their main-stage debuts in it (particularly in the 1972 Toronto prodution), including Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Sonia Manzano, Jeremy Irons, and Paul Schaffer. 

In our production, Sabers has the John the Baptist role.  Fellow high school students Jake (as Jesus) and Blair (Judas) are the other leads; and Bangle and her two junior high classmates round out the main cast.  Nearly twenty elementary-age kids have smaller singing and speaking parts, and the cherubs provide the cute and adorable element.   

Link to puzzle:  

[ed. note: this post was back-dated to keep the puzzle links in order]

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tabbies (Sunday brunch: April 6, 2014)

Don’t know if Hot and Trazom planned it that way, but in 3,319, they had TABBIES in 2d intersecting CATS in 1a.  So let’s introduce the feline members of the family, who both happen to be tabbies.

First there’s Joey, whose given name is Job.  We got him from a rescue group five years ago.  Sabers and Bangle had been angling for a pet, but there were concerns with everyone’s allergies, so we first spent an hour or so with him at the apartment of the person who was taking care of him.  There was no sneezing or asthma or rash, so he came home with us a week later.

Joey is built like a defensive end: big and strong and fast.  Even his whiskers are big, and his tail is like a labrador’s.  He’s almost six now, so he’s more like a retired defensive end, but he still gets his way around the house.

A year after we got Joey, another cat came up to the front window and knocked very politely.  We gave him a bite to eat, ascertained that there weren’t any other humans in the neighborhood looking for him, and got him to the vet, but he was certain that this was home.

Bangle (who was seven at the time) named him Dusty because of his pale tabby coloring.  Dusty’s a big cat too, but not as athletic as his brother.  His coat is not as fine, and it looks like it doesn’t quite fit him properly (if you can imagine that!).  He bites his nails too, so his claws are constantly broken.  But he has the most pleasant disposition.  He makes a fine lap kitty (if your lap is big enough), and purrs at the drop of a hat.  But he doesn’t speak much.  About the only time he’ll meow is if someone goes down to the back door: he’ll go down, reach up to the doorknob, and ask to go out.  Once he’s out, his desires are quite simple: roll around on the driveway and nibble on some grass.  I’ve never seen a cat eat as much grass as this one.

Find a lap kitty and a clipboard, and work on these puzzles.

The Hex cryptic in the National Post was interesting and maybe a little harder than usual.

There were two acrostics: in the New York Times (by Hex, behind the paywall, and Deb notes that the web wizards of the Times now have a non-Java online version) and Wall Street Journal by Mike Shenk.  On the latter, I think this was the first puzzle where I solved the acrostic before I even looked at the grid, so try it out.

Not much else this week, but if you subscribe to PandA or to Aries’s Rows Gardens, or you’ve got Cryptic All-Stars, you’ve got puzzles to catch up on.  I know I do.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Back in action (Puzzle No. 3,320)

Don’t know what the problem was last week, but today I was able to get both this week’s puzzle and last week’s.  So there’ll be some catch-up posts on the way in the next day or two; I’ll back-post them to keep the puzzles and solutions in order.

So without further ado...

Link to puzzle:

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle):  hard.  The great thing about this one was how consistent it was.  No easy sections, but I got the entire thing in one go.  Usually I’m stuck for a little while on one or two answers.

Hozom’s comment:  Parsimony, in which Hot and Trazom respond to the flak they got over 3,316 (solution here).  I was pretty sure of the answer to 21d, but less so about how the clue was intended to work.  Turns out I had it right--it was a phonetic reversal (<~CHEER< / <~REACH<).  Hot and Trazom explain that the homophone indicator was there in the clue, but some people read “loud ovation” as all definition instead of “ovation” being the definition and “loud” being an indicator.  I see it now, but I’m still not convinced that the phonetic reversal is entirely by the book.  However, we’ve been warned that the rules may be bent once in a while to make a clue more amusing.

So while Hot and Trazom were referring to whether or not there should be superfluous words in an indicator, the post title “Parsimony” works on another level too: the challenge of parsing a good cryptic clue.  Not to mention it’s a fun word for the weekly clue-writing challenge.

3,319 and its solution will be posted tomorrow: solution 3,320 will be posted Monday.