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]
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?