Thursday, May 15, 2014

Project Architeuthis (Puzzle No. 3,326)

Link to puzzle
(puzzle is fixed: see cancelled note below)

Degree of difficulty:  Mostly easy (simple charades and anagrams), but a few hard clues and answers are sprinkled in.

Hozom’s comment:  Critical Condition, in which Hot and Trazom add their two cents on the Jim Horne manifesto I blogged on on Monday.  While they sympathize with Jim, they defend the people who carp about puzzles and remind us of the purpose of critics in the art(#) world.  Money quote: “Holding [the NYT puzzle] to the highest possible aesthetic standard is another way of saying that the quality of the puzzle is worth caring about passionately.”

Another reason for good constructive criticism is to give other artists(#) a chance to see and understand the parts of an opus that weren’t received as well as the creator expected.  In the context of an otherwise good puzzle, the few weaknesses are distinct enough that a good critic can analyze them and use them as a teaching point.  

#--“art” is defined broadly around here.  Constructing puzzles is definitely an art, as is blogging and refereeing hockey games.

Weekly cluing challenge: CARPING

Back with the solution Monday.  Join us for Sunday brunch this weekend and every weekend.

A coupla weeks ago, puzzlers started buzzing about a Facebook page called Project Archieuthis   (Architeuthis is a genus of giant squid).  It promised an intriguing puzzle hunt, woven into a tale about a stolen weapons system.  Can you crack the codes, solve the puzzles, and save the kidnapped scientist?

If you can, you might be good material for the United States Navy.  The puzzle hunt is intended to identify people with minds well-suited to cryptography and other skills needed for information security, and to open them up to the idea of putting those talents to work for their country.

Three cheers for the Navy and its ad agency for putting this unconventional campaign together.   It’s good to recognize that there are people out there who want to serve, but don’t fit the model of the stereotypical military recruit.

Twenty years ago, I had a temporary job in Maryland with the USDA doing MRI of fish (we used them as a living indicator of water quality)  I refereed a lot of hockey while I was down there, and the route to one of the rinks took me right by the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade.  Being the puzzle fan I was, I made a promise to myself that if there ever was a situation where the country was under threat, I’d go there and offer to join (there are other places too where the nation needs smart people, like chemical and biological defenses at Fort Detrick, where we had some MRI collaborators).

I wasn’t aware of it at the time (I wasn’t even into cryptics), but Frank Lewis, longtime puzzle constructor for The Nation, was an civilian employee of the Army and the NSA, earning two prestigious medals for his service during . Now I can raise a coffee cup in his memory when I pass Fort Meade.  Frank, you were 70 years ahead of your time.

NOTE: the first posted version of Puzzle No. 3,326 inadvertently includes the 20a clue from 3,325.  Ignore it.  A corrected file will probably be posted by The Nation soon.

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