MONDAY, Aug. 6, 2007 - Allan E. Parrish

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Bowling - 6 long theme answers end with bowling-related words (though answers themselves are not bowling-related)

Another average Monday for me. My times are astonishingly regular on Monday puzzles - I managed to break 4 minutes a few times earlier in the year, but lately, every Monday is coming out about 4:25. Clearly I'm not trying hard enough to get my speed up, which may not be a bad thing. I figure, over time, my average will slowly come down ... until I get old-person's-brain, and my times start to go back up again; when does that happen? No offense to old people. I'll be joining your ranks soon enough.

This puzzle had a few odd / arcane words - I ran into a brick wall the first time I hit the SW corner because I had no idea what 51A: Book size was going for; and it ended in "O?" I thought maybe it was "quarto," but it didn't fit and seemed awfully technically literary for a Monday. Turns out I was on the right track, just one fold short (a quarto is made from folding one page twice to produce a sheet of four leaves; third fold gets you eight leaves - OCTAVO). Problem in SW was trifold, as I blew OCTAVO in part because I couldn't get two crucial Downs - 47D: Like some balloons, questions and corn (popped) and 48D: Playwright Sean (O'Casey). As my wife can tell you, as far as puzzles go, I am weakest when given word associations like 47D, especially when the associations come in threes. We do the cryptic and the standard British-style xword in The Listener (NZ) every week, and she is unfailingly faster at getting the kind of question that's phrased: "What word can precede x, y, or z?" My normally supple brain just locks up. Not sure why.

Flying through the puzzle, I didn't notice the theme, though I sensed it had something to do with repeated two-letter sets - the two FR's in FREEZE FRAME (17A: Result of hitting the pause button on a movie), two NA's in BANANA SPLIT (11D: Dairy Queen offering), two ST's in FIRST STRIKE (25D: Attack before being attacked). I really liked HAT PINS (27D: Millinery accessories) and TO SPARE (38A: Extra) before I ever knew they were theme answers. Sometimes themes result in forced-feeling fill - other times, themes inspire freshness and creativity. Today, the latter prevailed more often than not. Two appearances of TIN PAN ALLEY (61A: Old-time songwriters' locale) inside of one week is a bit much (see that Periodic Table puzzle a few days back), but otherwise, no complaints. Oh, and while we're on the subject of repeats, PARROTS (56A: Chatty birds) was in yesterday's puzzle. NO LIE (45A: "Honest to goodness!").

Most insane word in the puzzle is BOATEL (12D: Overnight accommodations by the shore). CATO (58A: "The Censor" of ancient Rome) was slightly challenging, but LEO XI (14A: Pope before Paul V, whose papacy lasted less than four weeks)!!! When it comes to popes, the clues may as well be [Early 12th century year] or some such crap because I'm just going to have to piece it together from crosses. Had to piece together OTTAWAS (35A: Chief Pontiac's tribe) from the crosses as well. Everything else was pretty smooth sailing.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Wendy 11:42 PM  

"Most insane word in the puzzle is BOATEL"

*That's* the understatement of the century.

Until you said it, didn't see O'CASEY at all even with it all filled in. Just looked so bizarre to me.

Fun puzzle though.

GK 1:33 AM  

Rex, I'm 57: does that qualify for old person's brain? (Given that 1999 Ph.D., I can guess your response.) Like a geezer in a Buick, I just coast along well under the speed limit, in this case 1/7 puzzle per minute. But really it seemed an easy puzzle, by no means even of medium difficulty. I knew OTTAWA right away except for the S, and for that reason erased it, only to fill it in again later. But that was the only wrong turn!

Anonymous 5:49 AM  

I agree with Wendy. Boatel is truly insane. Is it really a word used by anyone? I have never in all my life heard the word

Anonymous 8:25 AM  

Puzzle speed freaks remind me of those folks who gorge themselves on hot dogs at Coney Island to win some damn contest or other!

Sandy 10:02 AM  

Dear Anonymouse 8.25am: I feel people should do the puzzle in whatever way they enjoy and if challenging yourself on time is fun, then go for it. If not, don't. There is a recurring theme in some comments which I find kind of troubling - that there is a "right" way to do the puzzle. I enjoyed the recent Googling discussion because there was no judgement about what was right or wrong - just people talking about how they stretched their brains in different kinds of ways. The puzzle is one kind of game, then you play another kind of game with yourself to get it done, and I'm intrigued by how everyone's interior game is different.

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

I don't really get the speed thing either. I like to savor my puzzles. I think it's an ego thing,sorry.

b. 10:05 AM  

pretty easy- agree on boatel

Mary 10:24 AM  

I'm so happy! I knew BOATEL, maybe because I used to live in Florida? My only screw-up was using GONE, instead of WENT, in response to 36D:DEPARTED.Which messed me up until I got to STRIVE and saw my error.

I have very much enjoyed your blog, Rex, since I found it not too long ago. I am very impressed that you solve the puzzle and write an amusing column before I even get it printed out.

Rex Parker 10:26 AM  

It's more than slightly pathetic to criticize solvers who like to speed. You Never see fast solvers taunting slowpokes on this site, so why in the world is it OK to deride speed solvers? Proclaiming that you "like to savor" your puzzles is as much an "ego thing" as solving for speed. Get over yourself. And get a proper name instead of remaining "Anonymous," for god's sake.

And Mary, thanks for the kind words.


justjordan 10:33 AM  

This isn't technically about the Crossword, but I just don't like the new narrow version of the Times. It doesn't feel right. Sorry, I had to vent.

johnson 10:40 AM  

Is it faster to solve on the computer than by hand? I do the puzzle by hand, and even when I think it's easy (like today) it still takes 6-7 minutes. I don't think I'll change (I like the feel of doing it in the newspaper) I'm just curious.

Orange 10:45 AM  

It bears noting that speed solvers also savor the crosswords they do—but that they can savor more of them in the same amount of time. I mean, really—how much time do I spend solving crosswords (average = 5 a day), writing about crosswords (over an hour a day—oh, plus months working on a book), reading about crosswords (hi, Rex!), conversing about crosswords (via blog comments, here and elsewhere, and e-mail)? Probably more than the typical slow savorer of crosswords. So don't give me any crap about Coney Island hot dog contests. I savor like nobody's business.

Orange 10:48 AM  

Johnson, when you first start out doing puzzles on the computer, it can take a while to get used to it and you might be slower for a while. Eventually it becomes faster than solving on paper. Younger solvers who've never known life without computers (e.g., Tyler Hinman) can be lightning-fast online—if you saw Tyler doing a puzzle on his laptop in Wordplay, you've seen this in action.

Linda G 10:59 AM  

Mary, I also grew up in Florida, so boatel was a familiar word. They were everywhere!

I'm not a speed solver by any stretch of the imagination. I have nothing but admiration for everyone who regularly solves the puzzle(s) of their choice, however--and however fast--they choose to do it.

I'm an old dog (though I'm still waiting for the oldtimer's brain to kick in) but I'm fairly computer savvy. That said, I don't solve well online...partly because I'm a random solver and I can jump around to read clues much easier on paper. Besides, it's so much more enjoyable--for me--to curl up in the chair with the puzzle and a dog or two.

rock rabbit 11:09 AM  

Is it called a BOATEL because you can pull up and moor your boat there? Sounds like an ideal way to travel.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

Nice Best Western Boatel ad: Jack London Square needs all the help it can get.

Speaking of short-lived Pontiffs, there is an interesting book by David Yallop about the inside-job murder of Pope John Paul I, who lasted 34 days as Pope. Evidently he wanted the church to recognize women and sex. Titled "In God's Name".

Did the whole thing without realizing there was a theme at all, so thank you Rex.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Well, if it's so unimportant, why did you have a cow?

profphil 12:14 PM  

I've looked at puzzles from both sides now: paper, on-line; for speed for solving only. And have enjoyed them all. I never thought I could adjust to online over paper and admittedly felt superior at first. Now know better. As to speed, probably because Ican't compete with the best, I've opted for slowly savoring the puzzle. Although some times enjoy racing through it, like on a Monday when it's not too challenging, a fast time adds to the challenge. As to ego, I'l proudly admit to being an egoist and employ my ego whether I'm racing through the puzzle or slowly savoring it. In both cases my ego gets pleasure, either by figuring it all out without Googling (and my ego gets deflated when I don't) or because my pace has improved when I race through it. Although, I embrace my ego, I also appreciate the more Buddhistic/Hinduistic way of being/doing. However, me thinks the ego doeth protest too much.

Although I am open to all who enjoy, I also think most of us think what we like is the best but because on some level we know better, try not to be judgmental.

Au 12:54 PM  

Pretty good Monday. OCTAVO definitely threw me for a while, esp for a Monday.

As for speed, I tend to do my puzzles printed out at work to give me a little break. So, I never really time myself since I don't do it all at once. This seems to work for me for the harder puzzles (sometimes) because if I leave it alone for a while, an answer will suddenly come to me.


ayoung 1:27 PM  

The Times puzzle is my fix for the day. When I'm away where I don't have access to the puzzle (horrors), my husband saves all the papers and I have, on occasion, worked through three weeks' worth. One year I bought the NY Times 365 days calendar and couldn't keep up so I now carry a bunch of the days in my purse and do them on trains, buses and while waiting in doctors' offices. The answers are on the back: I do one and tear it off the pad and throw it away. If that's not enough I do the Sunday puzzles in Will Shortz' collections of 200 puzzles.

Gabby 2:19 PM  

I liked today's puzzle, but was dismayed because I submitted a puzzle to Will in April with a similar theme and have been waiting to hear back about it. Although my theme entries were totally different, I doubt that mine will be accepted now. All that work down the tubes!

Fergus 3:18 PM  

Hmmm, a dash of vitriol in the air ... .

I find that doing the puzzle, as ayoung said, is sort of a "fix" in a trippy kind of way. A mental engagement where the ego seemingly disappears -- a pleasurable trance where time is suspended no matter how long it takes. It's addictive, but so what. It's inexpensive, hardly embarassing, and doesn't require a support group to recover from. (Though it is refreshing to hear tales of other who struggle with the habit.)

Howard B 3:28 PM  

I enjoy solving both ways, for what it's worth. I find it fun to test myself on speed just for the heck of it, and not so much to compete - I solved like this when first learning how to solve these things on paper (could I finish before the end of my lunch hour?), and before I was aware of online applets and contests and that sort of thing. If I attempt to speed-solve, I read the clues over afterwards, to understand the theme and make sure I don't miss any clever clues or funny wordplay. Essentially, I want to get the most out of someone's hard work in creating the puzzle.

I also enjoy working a puzzle at the beach, or struggling through a cryptic on my own time (I'm lousy at them), no matter how long it takes. There's enjoyment to be had both ways. I've yet to meet any solver who lords their abilities at these things over others, although I'm sure there's some extreme type-A personality out there somewhere that might get a buzz out of that. Pity on them.
I don't care if you solve in 2 minutes, 2 days, or you get only 2 words in the thing after 2 weeks. If it's fun, it's fun.

Incidentally, I much prefer solving on paper - seems like a better experience, and I seem to learn better that way, but that's just me. Just adding my 1 9/10 cents (unleaded).

frances 4:02 PM  

I tried on-line solving for the first time a few days ago, and it took a while to keep track of where the cursor was, and why letters in some of my completed answers disappeared. Having mastered those purely technical problems, however, I still prefer paper-and-pencil because, with all the clues visible, you can be struck by random inspiration. Also, having the entire grid visible allows spotty collections of letters to coalesce into plausible answers, especially for the stacked fifteen-ers on Saturdays.

Jerome 4:11 PM  

Solving a crossword puzzle is a personal experience (unless one does it with someone else) and therefore it's up to each individual to decide how she/he does it (on paper/online, speed/savor, etc.). I don't understand why some people insist on trying to force their value on to others.

Fergus 4:32 PM  

... more than once, an agonizing puzzle that invited assistance from a passive ladyfriend turned out to be seductive. Quelle surprise!

While that's not the typical effect it is yet another agreeable byproduct of this peculiar affliction.

As I mentioned once before, a Saturday afternoon with a good puzzle at a baseball game is such a pure form of 'divertissement', but I would have to reckon I'm in a minority in holding this opinion.

drakeandjosh 4:36 PM  

Justjordan (10:33am), I feel we are in the do-the-puzzle-in-the-actual-newspaper minority, but I agree with you on the new look.

liebestraum 5:09 PM  

I think doing the puzzle on a computer is faster and, for the most part, I like to solve them that way now.

I also like timing myself, but the applet takes some getting used to for me. It skips over letter's you've entered and I'm used to just typing the word, even if it means overwriting letters I've already entered. I can see how the applet's way of doing things can make you faster, but right now, it just slows me down. I figure I'll get used to it.

I can tell you that finding this blog has given me an appreciation for "savoring" puzzles with like-minded crossword crazies. My wife thinks I'm just nuts. (Well, its not just crossword puzzles that causes her to think that.)

And - Orange - I'm going to buy your book. I looked for it in Barnes & Noble today, but came up empty. I'll get it online.


Fergus 5:42 PM  

Close friends, and especially spouses, are in debt to this therapuetic blog. I hate the look I used to get from people when I was halfway into an analysis of why something was clued slightly askew. Now I just vent and spew along with other affiliates, even if you're unknown.

Fergus 6:12 PM  

And Rex, your jejeune reference to old people was rather quaint. All my contemporaries are turing 50 this year (funny how axiomatic that is), and mostly we find some solace in the glimpse of wisdom that replaces the acuity lost or forsaken. If you lose any sharpness through age I hope it's replaced with even greater knowledge, which you seem to have already in abundant supply.

Kitt 7:22 PM  

My heavens! -- this controversy "speed" vs. "savoring" a puzzle seems to keep coming up -- with good reason I expect. And I don't mind the discussion -- I find it useful and helpful.

Thing is why would anyone question the method, motivation, or rationale for anyone else doing a crossword. Frankly, it makes me cross!

One of the reasons I love c-words is being able to do it in your own way. Let's not make it a mandate that everyone else has to do in the way that "anonymous" or someone else does.


Thanks again all of you that do the blogs. I can't imagine how much time it takes and we are so appreciative.

green mantis 7:34 PM  

I'm here to defend the honor of an innocent victim amid all this speed-savor vs. leisure-savor debate: the competitive eater.

Competitive eating may be unhealthy, ludicrous, and disgusting, but it is also, in a word, awesome.

Who here has not yet tasted the bloated thrill of watching Kobayashi devour half his body weight in noodles, or clutched his belly in delicious horror as Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, the hundred-pound beauty, swallows 46 mince pies in ten minutes?

Who wasn't on the edge of his seat during this year's Coney Island extravaganza when our beloved Takeru suffered what is termed in euphemistic splendor a "reversal of fortune" at the eleventh hour and lost the crown to Joey Chestnut?

My god people: get your priorities straight, and think again before disparaging these culinary heavyweights, these giants of compressed consumption, these gods among casual diners.

Also hate the new narrow format.

Sue 8:06 PM  

I don't worry about speed, but I'm really glad some others do. When I finally pull out my paper and pencil, and my old person's brain finishes the puzzle, I can be certain that lots of commentary has been posted, and I will probably enjoy it.

So thanks to all. Keep doing it fast.

Fergus 8:11 PM  

Mantis, I do share a similar vulgar, voyeuristic interest in competitive eating, though I'm much more curious about the commentators' genuine concern.

You seem to be a late chimer, so I figure you're on the West Coast, as well?

Sarah 8:24 PM  

Rex, I've been away for two days and so am late in offering you a most sincere apology for my buffoonish behavior on Saturday afternoon. It was I who gave away the theme for Sunday's puzzle. I felt sick at heart and nauseous when I read your Sunday piece and realized what a blunder I had made. I have no excuse to offer other than that I am a huge bird enthusiast and, sadly, lost my sense and sensibility when I saw the theme. I hope you, and everyone else who frequents this edifying site, will accept my apology.

Anonymous 9:49 PM  

My fastest time ever for a Monday is probably over 4 but less than 5 minutes. I lack the dexterity to get much faster and always solve on paper. I try to solve as fast as I can, but have never developed a technique to get much faster. My fastest time ever for a Saturday is under 10 minutes, but barely. My personal view is that someone who can solve a Monday in say two minutes is more dexterous than I am, more disciplined and committed than I am, and involved in an exercise that is not especially important to me--possibly, if not primarily, because I know I could never be that good. Someone who can solve a Saturday in under 5 minutes, on the other hand, is a Michael Jordan, Nureyev, Secretariat of crosswords and has my utter and complete admiration as that person has a mind for crosswords that I could only aspire to.

Steve M.

Fergus 9:55 PM  

Guess we've found the Type A

Howard B 10:36 PM  

Nah... still nobody beating their chest and putting down anyone who doesn't solve at warp speed - and that's a good thing. It's that difference between playing a pickup basketball game with friends(winning or losing being mostly irrelevant), and someone new walking onto the court, joining a team, and then rudely waving a finger in other players' faces each time (s)he sinks a shot. Big difference in the vibe and atmosphere around the game.

We all seem to compare our experiences here, without worrying about or directly comparing times; I like that. Heaven knows I've been crushed enough times on the Saturday puzzles only to have my questions and mistakes explained on this and other blogs.

I've said enough for about a week; so keep posting, people, and most of all keep having fun.
And you over there - yes, I see you - put that thing down! You don't know where it's been!

Rex Parker 11:33 PM  


All is forgiven. I didn't call you out by name because I could tell your blurting out the theme was an honest mistake caused by genuine excitement.


Aaron 1:32 AM  

1. New format is somewhat uglier, but in a few weeks we probably won't notice it. The Times does feel smaller, though. Like it was made for toddlers or something.

2. I enjoy paper. It just looks nicer, I think, and it's great to have something to hold in your hand. Plus, it feels much more holistic to have the entire thing in front of you at once.

3. I vote for savor, but I can see the speed aspect being addictive, even for its own sake.

4. Few things are better than a crossword and a cup of coffee at a baseball game.

5. I want to go stay at a boatel.

6. West coast best coast.

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