Sunday, March 30, 2014

Long words (Sunday brunch: March 30, 2014)

Apologies for the late post, I was down in Maryland most of the day yesterday and am running a tournament today.  —Braze

Congratulations to Bangle, who finished second in the Morris Open skating competition yesterday: second in her preliminary flight even though she went the wrong direction after a spin and had to adjust on the fly, and then second in the championship round.  Kid sports are a good place to learn resiliency.

The week’s puzzles include a diagramless from Ed Stein and Paula Gamache (fun--a double byline) in the New York Times (behind the paywall, comments [and spoilers] from Deb Amlen).

It’s a weekend for long words in puzzle grids.  Hex’s block cryptic in the National Post is a picture frame of 15s, and the rest of the grid is nicely interlocked.  Falcon was impressed.

See the reflection of the skate way down there?
The Wall Street Journal has a Spell Weaving by Mike Shenk.  He must have had fun with this one: there’s a 19-letter answer, a 16, and some other long ones too.

From large to small.  Nathan Curtis’s weekly puzzle is a Mini Rows Garden.  Go over and read the whole post for more news about what Nathan is up to.

Master Rows Gardner Andrew Ries has announced a weekly straight crossword to go with his Rows Garden series.

And the regular weekly Brit-style cryptic from Fraser Simpson can be found at the Globe and Mail in Java and print formats.

New York Times solution: March 30, 2014

Below the fold is the solution to this weekend’s New York Times variety puzzle: a diagramless by Ed Stein and Paula Gamache (commentary and spoilers at Wordplay).

Want more interesting puzzles?  Like 19, 16, and 15 letter answers?  Sunday brunch is still on the table. Maybe Bangle will skate it over to you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Waiting for 3,319 (temporary post)

The Nation has posted the page for puzzle no. 3,319, but the puzzle itself isn’t included.  
I’m going to have to wait until the print magazine arrives to give you the rundown on the puzzle.  

Meanwhile, Hot and Trazom have their weekly Word Salad post up.

Stay tuned for updates.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Playoff weekend (Solution no. 3,318)

You’d look good too if you got to sleep as long as
our crocuses did.  They finally woke up a month late.
I can’t figure out come coaches.  My first game this weekend I had a coach who yelled at my partner and me a couple of times--when the calls we made were in his team’s favor.

The first was a situation where the white team goalie made a save but couldn’t control or cover the puck: it happens a lot at this level because the goalies aren’t that good.  Since the puck was loose and nobody was slashing at the goalie, I let them play.  Eventually, he covered the puck and I blew the whistle.

Then after the stoppage, a black team player hit a white team player in the back, and it was an easy roughing call.  I think the black team coach wanted to yell at me about the penalty, but he couldn’t because it was so obvious that his kid had hit the other kid.  So he yelled that I should have blown the whistle sooner.   I replied: “What?? You want me to take away your team’s scoring opportunity?”

The good part was that after a weekend where I did some fencing and skated a double, the only thing that was sore Sunday morning was my face (from the cold).

Solution to The Nation puzzle no. 3,318

Link to puzzle:

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): hard
Legend: “*” anagram; “~” sounds like; “<“ letters reversed; “( )” letters inserted; “_” or lower case: letters deleted; “†” explicit in the clue, “^” first or last letter or letters, “{“ relocated letter or letters; “§” heteronym, “¶” letter bank

Double definition
CAT (“Lincoln, e.g.”) + GOP (“Republicans”) + ANTS (“some soldiers”)
SLAT (“part of a blind”) + HER (“woman’s”)
This had me thrown for a while, since I wasn’t thinking of a venetian blind
*A GRID (anagram indicated by “somehow”) + AM (“in the morning”)
IM ME (“declaration of identity”) + I (“one”) contained in (“adopted by”) DATE (“companion”)
This parses out several ways, only one of which is right.
*PRIEST (anagram indicated by “reformed”)
<POOR< (“feeble,” reversal indicated by “when returning”) contained in (“in”) *RIDE (anagram indicated by “bumpy”)
WARP (“to damage”) + LANE (“road”)
HOBO (cross-reference to 26a: “vagrant”) containing N (“nitrogen”) + bom^B^ (last letter indicated by “at the rear”)
^L^esson (first letter indicated by “beginning”) + EARN (“net”)
<SEE< (“to look,” reversal indicated by “back”) containing (“around”) YEP (“you betcha”) + I.E. (“that is”) + C (“cold”)
*MORONIC (anagram indicated by “drunk”)
VA (“Virginia”) + GRANT (“award”)
FRAU (“in Berlin, a woman”) + DU (“you” [still in German]) + LENT (“advanced”)
There are going to be some complaints about this one, but it’s not afoul of the rules.  Many solvers will run right by that if they just work on filling in the grid.  We might see this one in an upcoming episode of Word Salad.
<PART< (“constituent,” reversal indicated by “in retreat”)

I take my whisky with one ice cube.  If you go to a bar and ask for a whisky neat, you get it in a shot glass.  If you ask for whisky on the rocks, you get more ice than whisky.  Asking for one ice cube got me more whisky for my money, which was important when I was living on a grad student salary.
^C^an (first letter indicated by “initially”) + HARM (“hurt”)
A (†) *RIB (anagram indicated by “broken”) + A (†) +^G^ash (dirst letter indicated by “in front”)
GARY (“Cooper,” film star) containing (“has”) ^D^esire (first letter indicated by “bit of”) + GET (“to understand”)
PLACING (“locating”) + O (“love”) containing (“holding”) DO DO MI (“three notes”)
*ON WEARING (anagram indicated by “slips”)
SIR (“a knight”) containing (“hiding”) *MAIL (anagram indicated by “damaged”)
~ROW DIAL IN DREAD (“paddle and call in terror,” homophone indicated by “heard”)
*CAPER (anagram indicated by “absurd”) + PITA (“bread”)
*RAN (anagram indicated by “amok”) contained in (“consumed by”) INTEL (“information from espionage”)
<LAW< (“rule,” reversal indicated by “overturn”) + D OR F (“possible bad grades”)
Another one that rewards the effort to parse
BUSS (“a kiss”) followed by (“on”) TOP (“a peak”)
I’d have clued this in a different order so as to imply the kiss being the peak of the day.
AVE (“hail”) contained (“swallowed by”) in HEN (“bird”)
CHAR (“burn”) containing (“outside”) I (†)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Whistle in the pocket (Sunday brunch: March 23, 2014)

[oops, didn’t check the am/pm in posting time--that’ll teach me to blog after a playoff doubleheader]

It’s not something in the book, but a lesson passed on to novice refs in training camp: take off your whistle and put it in your pocket when there’s a scuffle and you’re going in to separate the players.  Depending on who’s teaching that part of the seminar, you’ll be advised there are other times to put your whistle in your pocket.  A lot of guys ignore that advice; it’s a bother to always be taking off and putting on your whistle.  But I’ve made it a habit. 

Why do you put the whistle in your pocket?  Read on after the weekend’s puzzles.  

Last week, my post and Nathan’s look to have crossed in the mail.  So there are two of his puzzles to commend to you: last week’s was a Pathfinder (good one!) and this week Nathan offers his first Split Ends (a puzzle type not to be confused with the “Split Ends” puzzles Will Sortz constructs for the New York Times).

The Wall Street Journal puzzle this weekend is “Omission Statement,” a variety cryptic by Hex.  This one is on the easy side, and even includes an acrostic final answer, so it’s definitely worth a try.  By contrast, the weekly Hex puzzle in the National Post is harder than usual.  I liked the grid, which included a dozen nine- and ten-letter words. Falcon will help you though it if you need. 

The Fraser Simpson cryptic in the Globe and Mail (printable, Java) is at its usual (hard) level of difficulty.       

The NYT has a Hex acrostic this week (behind the paywall).

Good news!  Erica has survived the bedbugs and posted her assessment of the tackiness of this month’s Harpers.  

Back to hockey.  Why do you put the whistle in your pocket?  Because of the metal clamp that holds it on your fingers.  If you get hit on the whistle, it’s a good way to sprain or break your fingers (I’ve broken seven, but none of them because of the whistle).  Yesterday proved the point.

It was a playoff game, a good one, though we had a lot of icings.  When there’s an icing call, the lead official blows the whistle when the puck crosses the goal line, skates to the puck, and skates it the length of the rink back to the trail official at the face-off dot.  It’s a time when we want to show off our best skating skills, and for me it’s the time when I can remind myself to pay attention to the things I learned in the power skating lessons I had a few seasons ago. 

On one of those situations, in the second period, I had just crossed the blue line and angled across towards the opposite circle when a red team player coming the other way angled across towards his bench.  We didn’t have a head-on collision, but he ran right into my whistle hand.  We then collided hip to hip pretty hard and both of us went down.  But I was ready, and since my whistle was in my pocket, neither the hand nor the whistle was injured.

NHL linesman Tim Nowak had a similar situation in a game I was watching on TV last week.  A player ran into him during a stoppage, and he went down.  He needed several stitches to close a gash in his whistle hand, but he was back out there soon enough.  Tim’s a good linesman, a veteran now.  A native of the Buffalo area, he’s a proud product of the USA Hockey Officiating program and gives back to his fellow officials.  I had the opportunity to skate with him and hear him speak at the last district camp I attended.  The occupational hazards of being a ref are there for all of us. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Streamlined solving (Puzzle No. 3,318)

During the school year, I get the weekday New York Times, and since I already read another newspaper, I read just a few items from it: the weekly science section, some of the sports coverage, a few metro articles, and arts and culture.  I treat the daily NYT puzzle the same way.  While it’s a daily habit for thousands, and probably the most solved and blogged crossword in the world, I’m more of a cryptic and variety fan now.  So my approach to the Times puzzle is to look for a theme first, and if there is one, get enough of puzzle done that I can get all the theme answers.  I don’t knock myself out trying to get every last entry.

On the other hand, sometimes a themed puzzle is right up my alley, like this one by Erik Agard at Glutton for Pun!  

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): hard

Hozom’s comment:  “Name Dropping,” in which Hot and Trazom discuss some of the many cluing possibilities that the names of celebrities, artists, and political figures bring, and introduce a weekly cluing challenge.  Think you have a knack for creating great cryptic clues, but don't have the time or inclination to work on a full puzzle?  Here's your chance to shine.

Solution and annotation posted Monday.  Join us this weekend for Sunday brunch, including a good new Pathfinder crossword.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bravo, Dan and USA (Puzzle No. 3,317)

Two winners to recognize today: Dan Feyer, five-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament winner; and Team USA, three-time Paralympic sled hockey champions.  The Americans beat Canada 3-0 in the semifinal Thursday, and avenged a loss in pool play with a 1-0 victory over Russia in the gold medal final.

Share in a little of that glory if you solved puzzle no. 3,317.  The solution and annotation is below the fold.

Bonus puzzle (you know I couldn’t resist this one): “Penalty Boxes,” a straight crossword by Erik Asgard.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What are you waiting for? (Sunday brunch: March 16, 2014)

The calendar says spring is supposed to begin next weekend, but I’ve still got snow in the yard and there’s another four inches predicted for tomorrow. Normally I like winter, but I think we’ve had enough already.  Worse still, there’s all the cleanup to do from the ice storm to do before I can get on with starting the garden for spring.  Maybe time to go back in where it’s warm and there are puzzles waiting.

The new Harper’s is out, and the latest Richard Maltby variety cryptic is a “Twofers” with two grids and run-together double clues.  You may have seen this kind of puzzle before (the inaugural issue of Wordplay had a triple version), but it’s a good concept worth doing again.  Interestingly, the April issue went online Wednesday March 12, but the deadline for solvers to submit for the prize (and the coveted note from Maltby) was the 14th, so you could have gotten away with copying the answer from the magazine.  Stay tuned for the next edition of Tacky Harpers Cryptic Clues (or maybe not, if the army of Chicago bedbugs has carried off Erica).

Like Mark Halpin, Tom Toce doesn’t do anything twice, but he bowed to popular demand and made another cryptic acrostic.  Short and sweet, though the people who typeset it forgot to put in the letters that tell what answer the letter in each box is from, so you have to scan through the puzzle to find the number when you work back from the grid.  Fortunately, I got a lot of the clues right off the bat, so I didn’t need to work backwards much.

Also in twos, block cryptics in major Canadian newspapers: Hex in the National Post (blogged by Falcon) and Fraser Simpson in the Globe and Mail (blogger wanted)

The Wall Street Journal weekend puzzle is a Rows Garden by Patrick Berry.  For once I got this one in a single sitting.  It was very gratifying to have one answer lead to another that led to the next on up the grid until the puzzle was finished.  For those of you who couldn’t make that nice chain, I have some hints posted.  And if you love Rows Gardens, Andrew Ries has a bi-weekly series available by subscription.

Also in the variety crossword department, BEQ’s puzzle no. 622 is a Marching Bands.  It was not easy, and it’s intended to whet your appetite for his upcoming book of Marching Bands.  Brendan’s post also includes a recap from the ACPT.

In the Times (behind the paywall) is a Will Shortz word puzzle called Two For One.

Finally, Foggy Brume has posted issue 48 of PandA magazine as a free sampler.  Register to see and download the issue.  PandA is a subscription e-mag that contains a new extravaganza each issue (six times a year).  Not for the faint of heart or mind, but if you think you’re up for the challenge, give it a try.

Wall Street Journal hint: March 15, 2014

Below the fold are some hints for this weekend’s Wall Street Journal variety puzzle, a Rows Garden by Patrick Berry.  As usual, they’re set in white text so you can click and drag over one hint without seeing the rest.  After you’re done with this, stop over for Sunday brunch with more puzzle links.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Broadcast Network (Puzzle No. 3,317)

A little while ago, we learned that Nathan Curtis and some of our other favorite constructors were involved in a new project, which turned out to be a quarterly puzzle magazine edited by Will Shortz.  Now the first issue of Will Shortz’s Wordplay is now out. What’s it like?  Find out after the break.

Link to puzzle

Degree of difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle): easy to moderate, and very consistent.

Hozom’s comment: “Chez Henri,” in which Hot realizes his dream of opening a Bay Area cryptic restaurant.  Reviewer’s note: the groaning you hear isn’t just from the large portions!

I think the best way to describe the new Wordplay puzzle magazine from Penny Press is to compare it to a television channel.  In the 1960s, TV for most people was the three major networks.  Cable TV was mainly for people who wanted better reception or not to have to fuss with an antenna.  The networks showed a little bit of everything: Laugh-in, a college football game on Saturday afternoon, soap operas mid-day, and the evening news.  Then we started seeing new and more focused channels: ESPN, HBO, MTV.  Today there are channels for everything from home remodeling to Tejano music to game show reruns.

So it is with puzzles.  Thirty years ago, we had the newspaper crossword plus some syndicated variety puzzle like Jumble or a cryptogram.  If you wanted variety, there were print magazines at the supermarket checkout lane.  For harder puzzles, there were magazines and books at bookstores. 

Then came the internet, which has been fabulous for us solvers.  We can congregate at sites for our favorite types of puzzles, and constructors have a place to go to seek out an audience.  Now we’re getting into app world and push content; we don’t ever have to go without our preferred puzzles. 

Penny Press is the broadcast company that’s trying to thrive in the 500 channel age.  Checkout lane magazines of easy crosswords and word searches are their bread and butter, and they’re the dominant player in that market.  But they also do specialty puzzles: The Other Doctor Mitchell is an avid consumer of their logic puzzles. 

Wordplay fits the Penny Press model to a T.  They understand solvers, and that they derive satisfaction from finishing puzzles and feeling they’re smarter because they’re able to get the right answers.  So they tend to stay away from difficult puzzles or ones that are intimidating at the beginning, just like the other editors who have to publish for a broader market, like Mike Shenk with the WSJ weekend puzzles

What that means is that the variety and cryptic crosswords in Wordplay are interspersed among other quick word games of the type Willz is good at coming up with.  Those are good for a quick two or three-minute break from whatever else you’re doing, or to pick up and solve while you’re waiting in line for something.  Nathan’s Pathfinder is probably the hardest puzzle in the magazine.  

Another benchmark: the Fraser Simpson cryptic is easier than his Globe and Mail puzzles, and is in pure US cluing form rather than the part-British approach of his weekly puzzles.  (The other cryptic in the magazine is by Jeffrey Harris.) 

Other names you’ll recognize (most but not all the puzzles are credited) include Patrick Berry, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Foggy Brume, and Mark Halpin.  There are also some new constructors working in forms you’ll recognize, like a Rows Garden by Joon Pahk.  Anthologies like this one are valuable for giving these people some cash and a wider audience for their puzzles.  Kudos to Will Shortz for convincing the big names to join the cast and for recognizing some emerging talent. 

The presentation is like other Penny Press magazines: comfortably-sized grids on good quality newsprint paper.  Since it’s newsprint, you will have to choose pen or pencil carefully, and it won’t take too much erasing. Games Magazine is better in this department.  There are about 60 puzzles in a 64-page magazine for $3.99 ($18.97 for an annual subscription: 6 issues per year).  For the whole thing, that’s a good value, but if you see the word games and logic art pages as filler, less so.

So like the people who watch military history 24/7, solvers who want just variety crosswords will change the channel.  Those whose idea of variety extends more broadly will be satisfied but not thrilled with this magazine.  But that’s OK since those are fairly small slivers of the population.  Like the big TV networks, Penny Press is trying to build an audience out of people who are just tuning in to whatever is on now plus those who are looking for a particular show to meet their interest. 

For the typical reader of this blog, it’s worth having a copy of Wordplay.  It’ll be ideal for airplane trips or on the nightstand for when you want a light and fairly easy diversion.  If you discover some new favorites, and constructors get a breakout from it, even better. 

Penny Press says the best place to find Wordplay will be at larger bookstores, but to make sure you get your copy, subscribe.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sled hockey (Solution No. 3,316)

Team USA: sled hockey in Sochi 
I got home Saturday to find more Team USA hockey on the television: this time from the Paralympics in Sochi.  And it was excellent hockey.  Puck control and solid goaltending led to a 5-1 win over Italy in USA’s first pool game.

Sled hockey is gaining popularity, in large part I think because it maintains all the character of the game, from the flashy stickhandling of the top centers to the dirty work done in the corners to the goalies complaining to the referee that they had the puck covered before it went in the net.

The players carry two sticks, each with a blade at one end for shooting and passing the puck, and a set of spikes on the other end for propelling themselves around the rink.  The players must have excellent upper body strength for skating, and core strength to bend and reach the puck.  Those are the same assets you need for checking, so the guys don’t shy away from the physical part of the game.  On the sleds, it’s like a cross between the NHL and NASCAR.

The officials for sled hockey are able-bodied, so they can retrieve the puck and get in between the players for face-offs.  From the ref’s perspective (I’d love to work a few sled games), it’s a lot like regular hockey.  Almost all the penalties are the same, though there’s an additional violation called “teeing” which is hitting another player with the front of your sled.  I had to look that up after I saw a signal I’d never seen before.  Congratulations to Johnathan Morrison, Derek Berkebile, and Brian Frerichs for getting the call to represent our officiating program at the international level.

Game 3 against Russia is tomorrow morning, then semifinals Thursday and (we hope) the gold medal game at noon Saturday.  Check your local listings and support our guys.

Solution to The Nation cryptic crossword No. 3,316

Link to puzzle:

Legend: “*” anagram; “~” sounds like; “<“ letters reversed; “( )” letters inserted; “_” or lower case: letters deleted; “†” explicit in the clue, “^” first or last letter or letters, “{“ relocated letter or letters; “§” heteronym, “¶” letter bank

ELUDE (“skirt”) containing (“covering”) XC (“90”)
CC (“send a copy”) contained in (“in”) *TAPE (anagram indicated by “snarled”)
*GRIEF (anagram indicated by “unbridled”) containing (“about”) ^U^nlucky (first letter indicated by “hint of”)
HAS (“fools”) + HARK (“pay attention”) containing (“to grasp”) ^M^agic (first letter indicated by “source”)
THAT (†) + CHER (“multitalented entertainer”)
~MICE (“computer devices,” homophone indicated by “by ear”) + ELF (“toy maker”)
Since I had the M I was trying to make “Mattel” work.
*NUTS CREATE (anagram indicated by “mixed”)
<PEEV_e_< (“annoyance,” reversal indicated by “brought about,” omission of last letter indicated by “the bulk of”)
AV (“audiovisual”) + IS (“plays”)
BEEPER (“pager”) containing (“ringing”) OK (“yes”) contained in (“in”) OK (“Oklahoma”)
That’s a rare one: a double container where both containeds are the same. 
~PENCE’L (homophone indicated by “when speaking”)
NOSH (“eat”) contained in (“inside of”) GRAPE (“fruit”)
*STEERING (anagram indicated by “wheels”)
EL (“train”) following (“in pursuit of”) CHAN (“Chinese detective”)
<EG (“say”) + REM (“a type of sleep”) + tranc^E^ (last letter indicated by “ultimately”)< (reversal of the whole thing indicated by “facing west”)
*SHORE UP (anagram indicated by “unsteady”)

*PIE (anagram indicated by “minced”) + THE (†) + ^T^able (first letter indicated by “top”)
COUNTESS (“noblewoman”) containing (“welcomes”) ^L^adies (first letter indicated by “initially”)
*TRUE (anagram indicated by “mixup”)
Excellent twist in the definition.
*THREE (anagram indicated by “out of whack”)
ASSES (“idiots”) containing (“suppressing”) UM (“hesitation”
pere_C AMUS_es (hidden word indicated by “excerpt from”)
LEE (“general”) follows (“supporting”) PAR (“standard”) + O (“zero”)
fa_CE O_ff (hidden word indicated by “captivates”)
Could also have been ACE, which is fine since you usually need to make a three letter entry harder some way.
*NATIVE IN (anagram indicated by “disoriented”)
VIM (“energy”) containing (“stocks”) <ANTE< (†, reversal indicated by “up”)
LIE (“story”) + V (“victory”) contained in (“interrupts”) VIE (“contest”)
<PACK< (“bundle,” reversal indicated by “up”) containing NEE_d_ (“requisite,” omission of last letter indicated by “nearly”)
E{M}PRESS (“ruler,” replacement of M (“second place”) with X indicated by “99 percent loss” (changing M (1,000) to X (10)))
*GOT (anagram indicated by “drunk”) containing (“internalizing”) US (“American”)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dumping a coach (Sunday brunch: March 9, 2014)

Well, I got three quarters through the season before I had to assess any game misconducts this year.  No more: I had to dump a coach last weekend.  Or more precisely, the coach did stuff that he should have known was going to get him a game misconduct, and I penalized him appropriately.

There’s a popular opinion that referees are out to get coaches, but aside from a few ego cases, most of us are trying to keep the coaches and players in the game.  Part of it is for the good of the players and the game, but there’s also a selfish reason: it’s a pain in the tail to dump a coach.  Most immediately, it risks turning the rest of the team and the spectators against you and your partner, and then after the game it’s just a boatload of paperwork and hassle. (continued below the puzzles)

I don’t think I made note of this month’s Harper’s puzzle.  It’s called Gremlins, and after a couple of relatively easy puzzles from Maltby, we get a tough one again.  Each and every clue has an alteration, and each and every answer has an alteration.

By comparison, the acrosses in the Kevin Wald Academy Awards puzzle are all normal, which made it considerably less difficult than his puzzles usually are.

Straight cryptics?  We have a trio: Hex in the National Post, Fraser Simpson in the Globe and Mail, and LizR’s Brit cryptic, in order of difficulty.  Some nice clues in the Simpson and LizR puzzles so if you don’t usually attempt them, consider a try this week.  Even if you don’t get all the way through (I often can’t), they’re enjoyable.

The New York Times variety puzzle (behind the paywall) is an acrostic by Hex.  Hex also have their weekly straight cryptic in the National Post while Fraser Simpson constructs for the Globe and Mail.

We also have an acrostic (by Mike Shenk) in the Wall Street Journal (Java and printable versions).  It was easy, perhaps because there was so much repetition.  I got several letters of a key word in one place, and some different letters in another, and nailed that word, which quickly led to the neighboring words and the rest of the puzzle.  A lesson there for constructors.

Elsewhere in the puzzle world, Puzzazz released an update to their app this week, and it’s a big one. You can now solve any .puz or ipuz in the app, if the author provides the download link.

(back to hockey below the fold)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Not merely hobgoblins (Puzzle No. 3,316)

Link to puzzle:

Hozom’s comment: “Tourney Time,” in which Hot and Trazom report that they'll be missing this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament but encourage you to go. They make the good point that you can meet and talk to many of your favorite (and less favored) constructors while you're there.

Themework: A variety of “numbers” in the clues.

Difficulty (by standards of this weekly puzzle):  Starts easy in the upper left, and gets harder as you work your way around. 

Last week’s Word Salad post was titled “Hobgoblins,” an allusion to the adage that “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” (I see it was attributed to Emerson)  In their post, Hot and Trazom defended themselves and other constructors from solvers who might have an unrealistic expectation for all the clues or answers in a themed puzzle fitting into the theme.  I agree with Hot and Trazom.  Not even Kevin Wald or Patrick Berry can do that (though they come close).  But such consistency is something to strive for, and I think it is reasonable for solvers to expect that the puzzles they work follow the explicit (Ximenean) or implicit (see Hot and Trazom’s blog posts) rules of clue construction.

Starting in on Cryptic All-Stars last week, I found it’s a nice batch of moderate-difficulty variety cryptics, but there’ve been some clues to make me cringe.  These two in particular stood out to me:

11d Money traveling west with bachelor invested in flower.

<A(B)LOOM<       MOOLA (“money,” reversal indicated by “traveling west”) containing (“with ... invested”) B (“bachelor”)

The problem is that indicator.  It would be nice clear indicator for an across, but the clue is a down!

Then,  11a   Sense of rhythm employed by Ponti, Mingus

_TI MING_     pon_TI MING_us (hidden word indicated by “employed by”)

The problem there is that I had a jazz program on the campus radio station when I was in school (I can still identify some players by ear), and I happen to know that the French violinist’s name is spelled Jean-Luc Ponty.

I don’t think I’m being small-minded by disagreeing with those clues.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

In and out (Sunday brunch: March 2, 2014)

When I skated out for my game last Sunday, I saw that the rink staff had put out the crummy old practice goals instead of the better ones they usually use for games.  They did it again yesterday.  

About five minutes into the game, that became important.  I was down on the goal line, there was a shot, and the next thing I saw was the puck rebounding off the end boards.  I looked back and the white team was turning away like they were celebrating a goal.  I thought: “Get back in the game—keep playing until the whistle.”

Eventually, we had a stoppage and the coach yelled that the puck had gone in the goal.  I replied that I saw the puck on the back boards, so it was no goal, but I’d check the net anyway.  Sure enough, there was a hole on the bottom, opposite where I was standing and just big enough for a puck to get through. So I went back to the coach and said I couldn’t reverse the call since I didn’t see the puck go through the goal.  I added that this was his team’s rink, and if he still had a beef, he should take it to the rink employees and not to me or my partner.  

Fortunately for me, it was the net my partner checked before the game, and not my net.  I suspect that he’ll be a little more careful when checking next time.   

This week we get a balance of trade in cryptic crosswords between the USA and Canada.  Whereas American constructors Hex have a puzzle every weekend in Canada’s National Post, Canadian constructors publishing in America are less common.  But this week, American solvers get a Canadian puzzle in the New York Times courtesy of Fraser Simpson.  Simpson also sets the weekly cryptic (available in Java and PDF) in the Globe and Mail: Canada’s other national paper (nominally published in Toronto).  The Times puzzle is hard, like Simpson’s Globe and Mail puzzles, but it’s closer to a strict American style of cluing whereas the Globe and Mail puzzles are more relaxed like British puzzles.  By that I mean that some of Simpson’s clues don’t fit the formula of “definition, wordplay, and nothing else.” 

The Wall Street Journal has a treat from Patrick Berry called “Belt Line.” (PDF here)  It involves intersecting loops of words and naturally (since it’s from Patrick) the unchecked letters of the grid give us a quote.  It’s another hard one by Journal standards, so I posted a hint grid as well as the solution.  The hint grid post also has some tactical suggestions in case you don’t know how to get started.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New York TImes solution: March 2, 2014

Below the fold is the solution to the cryptic crossword in today’s New York Times.

Want more from Fraser Simpson?  Stick around for Sunday brunch!