WEEKLY WRAP-UP: April 21-27, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not a terribly eventful week, what with NABES nearly completely off the horizon. Aw ... let's just stay with NABES (and last Monday) a teeny while longer. Last Monday's puzzle (NABES part deux) was unusually tough for most people (relative to Mondays, that is). Here's John, expressing succinctly the problem / challenge that a novice solver would have faced:

  • I've never heard of or seen PITH (42D). [didn't find this word odd]
  • I've never seen APERCU in a puzzle (50A). [yeah, that's a late-week word, for sure]
  • I've never heard of or seen SENNA (63A). [another befuddler, if the number of Googlers I got is any indication]
  • I've never heard of or seen SWAIN (30D). [now that strikes me as an almost ordinary word]
  • I've never heard of Tom EWELL, AUDIE Murphy or Red ADAIR. [they are all frequent puzzle denizens]
  • "A Lesson from ALOES"????" [yeah, that word in the plural is like nails on a chalkboard]
Monday also featured a fascinating observation by "Anonymous" re: NABES in the Monday grid: "You can also change NABES to LABIA with no problem." And he/she was absolutely right: NET goes to LET, ASEA goes to ASIA, and PSST goes to PSAT. I'll take LABIA over NABES any day (!), as it is far less disturbing. You can clue LABIA without reference to female genitalia, but nobody's going to buy it, so all this hypothesizing is moot. Fun, but moot.

Wade issued a challenge on Monday:

[C]ome up with a clue using as many of the "crossword only" words you can put in there. It would be, like, totally awesome if the answer turned out to be a pantheonic word, but that may be overreaching. So I'm asking all you bygone cager sloganeers to step up to the plate. Second prize is a tripe taco at the greatest taco truck north of I-10 (in the vacant lot next to Wendy's on Durham.) First prize is you don't have to eat a tripe taco at the greatest taco truck north of I-10 (in the vacant lot next to Wendy's on Durham.)

My best shot, which is bad on many levels: [Bygone "It's the Water" sloganeer, slangily] => OLY. As in "Olympia Beer." Check out these ads- there are a lot of them on youtube, but this set actually uses "OLY" - ah, the early 70s. Thank god I wasn't born any later than I was. Good times.

I forgot to mention, in my Sunday write-up, the fact that as I was scanning over my puzzle before after finishing, looking for answers to talk about, I could not figure out how HAS A GOAT could possibly be an acceptable answer - nor could I believe I had failed to notice a clue that would result in such an answer. Sadly, the answer was actually the far more pedestrian HAS A GO AT.

As for mistakes, I have two favorites. First, there was one made by multiple people in Saturday's very tough puzzle. The clue, [Something damned with faint praise, in British lingo], stumped many people. Some of us eventually hacked our way to the correct answer, CURATE'S EGG, but several of us got stopped at other answers along the way. Most popular stop appears to have been PIRATE'S EGG, though commenter roro offered up the equally compelling CYRANO'S EGG. If you don't know the origin of the phrase, then really, it could be anybody's egg.

The other great wrong answer was one I and several others had on Tuesday. The clue: [What a gal has that a gent doesn't?]. The answer: HARD G. My answer: HER DG. My rationale: EMEER looks as good as AMEER to me, and the possessive pronoun fit the clue, and maybe DG is some slang I've never heard of. This mistake resulted in what is clearly the comment of the week, submitted by Ms. Orange. It's bold, it's daring, it's probably dirty, and best of all, it's succinct: "My DG itches."

Oh, I almost forgot about the UEY / UIE controversy from Thursday's puzzle [Turnabout, in slang]. I would say that there was also a UWE controversy, as many people insisted (publicly and privately) that UWE (crossing DOWN) was just as good if not better than the "correct" answer, UIE (crossing DO IN, which apparently some people parsed as the non-existent but awesome-sounding word DOIN!). Sorry, UWE is an obscure hockey player, if it's anything. You have two choices: UEY and UIE. The former is more common and, IMOO, better.

As for mail ... nothing terribly interesting this week. One reader (forgive me, I copied your message unattributed onto my stickie note), wrote me about her out-of-the-blue memory of having frequented a coffee shop in Las Cruces, NM at one point in her life, a coffee shop whose name ... was NABES. Tried desperately to get a photo, but when she emailed her friend, she was informed that NABES had been out of business for years. That's what happens when you give your coffee shop a ridiculous name.

In the "bitter letter out of nowhere" category, we have this gem from a 6-weeks-ago reader, re: Anita HILL: "Anita Hill's public degradation was due to her propensity for telling lies." I have a weird theory that this guy is also the Xmas guy is also Grampa Mike, the very first person ever to comment on my blog. That comment:

First, please do not comment on puzzles the day they are printed. Further, many across the country get today's puzzle next week, so you shouldn't give away the fun for them.

Second, many of the words you are objecting to are entirely familiar to anyone who has solved puzzles even relatively briefly.

Your criticism that some of these words are not familiar to all people generally is an unfair criticism. Like any pastime, this one has its own world, and that includes stars with interesting names, animals familiar to those who watch the Animal Channel, etc.

This blog is just a bad idea.


And thus "IMOO" was born. Thankfully, that comment was followed immediately by one from one of my first loyal readers, lhoffman12:

This site is one of the best I've seen on crossword puzzles. Good graphics, good references...highly entertaining! If grandpa mike doesn't want to have hints about the puzzle, no one is forcing him to look at your site. I hope you keep it up.

And I did.

Aviatrix wants you to watch an ad that involves two pilots trying to solve a crossword puzzle, so enjoy.

And now, our Word of the Week: CURLEW

(43A: Cousin of the sandpiper - from Saturday's Brad Wilber puzzle)

any of a number of wide-ranging chiefly migratory birds (family Scolopacidae) esp. of the genus Numenius having long legs, a long slender bill that curves downward, and plumage variegated with brown and buff

I love when dictionary entries sound like poetry. If you are looking to be able to distinguish CURLEWS from sandpipers, good luck. There is also a bird called the "CURLEW sandpiper": "a sandpiper that is widely distributed in the Old World and has a curved bill like that of a curlew." Thanks for the help, dictionary!

There's also a CURLEWberry, a CURLEW bug, and a CURLEW jack, all of which are defined by words that I would have to look up to understand ("crowberry," "corn billbug," and "whimbrel," respectively).

Lastly, reader pics - here's one submitted by Andrea Carla Michaels. It features Friday's constructor, Mike Nothnagel (Mr. Smiley on the left) and some of his groupies (wink) hanging out at the ACPT a couple months back (that light fixture behind them is one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen in a non-fleabag hotel):

Here is the sociopathically neat completed Tuesday puzzle of commenter Fergus:

And here is the awesomest cake ever - actually presented this past week to reader ... well, you can see his name right there:

Crossword cake and Yoohoo! Now that's a party...

-PS Pete M. now has a blog about the NY Sun puzzles, so if you do those (which you should), why not check it out?


Orange 8:38 PM  

I can't solve that cake. P_1_R_J_ ... what could that be? PA10RAJA?

Rex Parker 8:42 PM  

I don't know, but 7D is YETI HAND, for sure.


jmbrow29 8:48 PM  

Wow guys! Thanks for the valuable insight on my cake. I really didn't have time to solve it before my friends and I dug in. Too bad the cake decorator didn't realize the whole symmetry aspect and what's with those unchecked squares? hahaha. And Rex was right: "the awesomest cake ever."

jmbrow29 8:51 PM  

oh btw, i think the column starting with the second P in HAPPY could be POSITRON. Not quite sure how that works with YETIHAND though.

Howard B 10:03 PM  

Orange, I'm guessing it's a rebus, and I think it clues to the completely in-the-language PH[ONE]D RAJA or PR[O NE]AR DJS.

This cake is almost as much fun as Trip's Wacky Weekend Warrior puzzles. (Almost).

Joon 10:21 PM  

hooray for the wrap-up! now that it's happened two weeks in a row, i even feel that the "weekly" is a well-deserved part of the feature's name.

that CURLEW is clearly engaging in some CABOTINAGE, if you ask me.

SethG 10:21 PM  

Is the frosting erasable? Because I think you guys are thinking of the wrong jmbrow29--it's not Jon, it's his twin brother RON.

The answer is PI[ONE]ER FR[EIGHT].

Barb in Chicago 10:41 PM  

The cake solves the problem of how to do the x-word -- in pen or in pencil? No, in icing!

Orange 10:46 PM  

Damn, I was wrong. Clearly, Seth is right.

PhillySolver 11:14 PM  

This writeup provides more laughs than the first exposure to these puzzles...sort of the icing on the cake.

Noam D. Elkies 11:19 PM  

Re CURLEW: also Britten's "Curlew River" and its "Curlew sign" (a musical notation); before this week's puzzle and writeup I had never seen the word except in those contexts and had no idea what if anything a curlew was...


Ellen 11:27 PM  

FYI, the people in that picture are Mike Nothnagel, Amy Reynaldo, Byron Walden and Frank Longo.

karmasartre 2:26 AM  

@Fergus -- cool gratuitous Bart Simpson image.

Mike 2:42 AM  

I agree with Curlew being the word of the week. I found it hard to believe there was a bird with such a weird name that i hadn't heard of. I probably had seen them on sort of animal show like Grampa mentioned.

REX how do you know how many time a clue gets googled? Do you ever check how often an answer gets googled? I find that I google answers a lot and almost never the clues.

Mike 2:56 AM  

RE pilot Video

When I am working a puzzle at work, or public people always want to help. If its a Saturday I just kind of shake my head, because they have no idea how hard they are, but I can usually find a clue they can get, and is out of my sphere of expertise but in theirs. Thats one of the thing that makes fri and sats hard and fun is the enormous range of expertise they cover. If its a monday, I print them a puzzle and they are usually shocked that they can do it. They always have problems with crosswordese though. I don't know where I am going with this except these to losers couldn't even get a 1a on a monday. Maybe mondays should be a no crosswordese zone.

Mike 3:15 AM  


not to beat a dead horse but...

i googled uey, uie, and uwe, after the controversy and none of them showed up in the dictionaries. Uwe exists as a proper name. However from what I can tell from googling uie and uey exist only in the world of crosswordese and are just the phonetic expressions of the term we have all used and heard. All words enter written language somewhere some in a shakespeare play, some in the world of crosswords. The phonetic expression for the slang term describing a turn does not have a definitive spelling yet and UWE is just as good as the other ones.

I did settle the on published answer because I thought DOIN was better then DOWN but I would have accepted DOWN. I had not seen UWE used before, but one cannot have worked every puzzle in the world to see if that spelling had ever had a prior use. I saw UIE first and when my first UEY came up I was in a quandary. I think I've seen a couple of other UEs also. I Liked the deep south UEEEEY

I would like to see a constructor to use UWE officially so that it can someday enter the pantheon.

Mike 3:48 AM  

my grammar and spelling are bad so focus on the content


Re: Pete M's new NYSun puzzle blog --

Beware, he posts the solution the night before.

Thanks for the tip, Rex. I enjoy the Sun too.

PuzzleGirl 9:15 AM  

Who does Frank Longo look like? I'm gonna go with Heath Ledger. (I can't believe how long it took me at the ACPT to figure out Howard B. looks like Tom Cruise.)

Jeffrey 12:31 PM  

I think, along with your other (IMO justified) complaints of obscurity, that PYX is kind of a curveball for a Tuesday. Could've easily been PAX (the cable channel) or PAY or something else. Glad to see I wasn't the only one disturbed by ALEX/ALEXEI.

FWIW, I knew APOLLO SOYUZ right off the bad, as well as SYZYGY (common "wordplay" word).

What's IMOO? In my opinionated opinion?

Orange 5:37 PM  

In my obnoxious opinion. Isn't that more humble than "IMHO"?

andrea carla michaels 3:54 AM  

"Maybe Mondays should be a no crosswordese zone"
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! ;)

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