Classic Fiat model / WED 8-18-10 / Empire founded by Manco Capac / Endor natives / Mafioso's code of silence / Great instructor per Edmund Burke
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Constructor: Alex Boisvert
Relative difficulty: Easy
THEME: Just add "X" — "X" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, clued wackily
Word of the Day: Manco Capac (33A: Member of an empire founded by Manco Capac => INCA) —
Manco Capac (mäng'kō käpäk'), legendary founder of the Inca dynasty of Peru. According to the most frequently told story, four brothers, Manco Capac, Ayar Anca, Ayar Cachi, and Ayar Uchu, and their four sisters, Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Cura (or Ipacura), and Mama Raua, lived at Paccari-Tampu [tavern of the dawn], several miles distant from Cuzco. They gathered together the tribes of their locality, marched on the Cuzco Valley, and conquered the tribes living there. Manco Capac had by his sister-wife, Mama Ocllo, a son called Sinchi Roca (or Cinchi Roca). Authorities concede that the first Inca chief to be a historical figure was called Sinchi Roca (c.1105-c.1140). Thus the foundation for an empire was laid. Another legend relates that the Sun created a man and a woman on an island in Lake Titicaca. They were given a golden staff by the Sun, their father, who bade them settle permanently at whatever place the staff should sink into the earth. At a hill overlooking the present city of Cuzco the staff of gold disappeared into the earth. They gathered around them a great many people and founded the city of Cuzco and the Inca state.(Columbia Encyclopedia) // The well-known Scrooge McDuck comic book Son of the Sun, written by Don Rosa, featured Manco Cápac as the original owner of various lost treasures that serve as the comic's main plot devices, which Scrooge and his nephews are searching for. (wikipedia)
Back to the puzzle. Simple concept, but if nothing else, we get tons of Xs out of the deal, which is never (or rarely) a bad thing. Theme answers were more cute than funny, and it might have been a bit more elegant if the added Xs were the *only* Xs in the grid, but these are minor quibbles. At 78 words, and with the help of a couple cheater squares :) this grid is supremely smooth. Unimpeachable (though maybe on a bad day I would, in fact, impeach IMA (19D: "___ Gigolo")). Winner of the day: ANKLE BITER (29D: Rug rat) (wish RAT (17A: One who breaks the OMERTA) hadn't also been in the grid, but I doubt anyone noticed) (16A: Mafioso's code of silence)
- 18A: Mourning comic book mutants? (XMEN IN BLACK)
- 24A: Event that includes Snowboarding Charades and Motocross 20 Questions? (PARLOR X-GAMES)
- 39A: Result of a phobia of medical pictures? (X-RAY BAN)
- 51A: Curious person's video game console? (PANDORA'S XBOX)
- 62A: Diabolical graph line? (X AXIS OF EVIL)
- 4A: X (CHI)
- 65A: X (TEN)
- 4D: XLI x X (CDX)
- 57D: Former flames (EXES)
- 20A: Ed with the 1967 hit "My Cup Runneth Over" (AMES) — possibly my least favorite AMES clue. Yes, I have AMES clues ranked in my head. The top is Jonathan AMES. The bottom is this one. The Iowa city is somewhere in the middle. I only wish Willie AAMES spelled his name AMES, as he'd be near the top as well.
- 37A: "You Are My Destiny" singer, 1958 (ANKA) — More daaaaaated music. We get some Mos DEF a little later, but as an actor, not a musician/rapper (52D: "Be Kind Rewind" co-star Mos ___).
- 38A: Classic Fiat model (UNO) — new (to me) UNO clue. This western section was the thorniest part of an easy puzzle. Took me a while to put together DUES (32D: Club bill) and DIRTY (32A: One way to play)
- 57A: Endor natives in "Return of the Jedi" (EWOKS) — nice little bonus mini-scifi-theme going here with this answer and XMEN IN BLACK (a twofer) and DUNE (67A: Sci-fi novel made into a 1984 cult film)
- 61A: "The great instructor," per Edmund Burke (TIME) — nice, unexpected, highbrow clue. Me, I'd have gone with [Word sung three times at the beginning of "Hazy Shade of Winter"].
- 21D: Nickelodeon opening (SLOT) — Like! First thought was "opening" in the sense of "beginning (of a short olde tymey film)"
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And now, a brief write-up of Ryan & Brian's Lollapuzzoola 3 Crossword Tournament (Sat. 8/14/10, Jackson Heights, Queens, NY):
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT — if you want to do the tournament puzzles yourself, go here and get them already!
It was my privilege and pleasure to attend this tournament—my favorite crossword tournament experience to date (I've been to half a dozen or so). Held in a smallish church in Queens (where Scrabble was born, I'm told), the tournament — put on by Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet — manages to be both high-caliber and lowbrow; intense and relaxed; serious and not-so-much.
Got in the night before and went drinking with Brendan Emmett Quigley—sitting in a Starbucks on 5th Ave., I tweeted a request to my followers for suggestions of places to drink in midtown, and dang if I didn't get half a dozen replies inside of ten minutes. So we drank and then we drank and then we ate at Bar Breton (also on 5th Ave.), where Angela Halsted (aka PuzzleGirl) joined us once her flight got in. I brought a recorder in order to tape a Q&A with Brendan (for a future writing project), so there now exists a 75-minute recording of us getting increasingly drunk and profane, and yet mostly staying on topic. I listened to it on the bus ride home. Shocking how informative the conversation was, despite (because of?) the complete lack of structure or direction. Anyway, that was fun. Took the subway with Angela to Queens, where we were staying with constructor extraordinaire and all-around nice guy Doug Peterson.
On day of the tournament, the three of us ran into former ACPT champion Jon Delfin on the train, and then ran into Patrick Blindauer in the train station, and *then* ran into occasional blog commenter "Sparky" —a lovely woman. While Patrick and I were getting pre-tourney coffee, I ran into yet another blog reader, another (sorry if this gets repetitive) lovely woman named Vega. One of the reasons this tournament experience was better than any that had come before was that I went out of my way to go against my personality type (quiet corner-sitting loner) and actually speak to people. Press the flesh. Be ... what's the word ... "friendly?" Wow. Quite an experience. I might do it again someday.
Walking into a tournament is always mildly overwhelming, in that I immediately recognize a ton of people, and then try to figure out how I'm going to navigate the waters. Who was there? Here's the folks I remember: constructors Deb Amlen, Mike Nothnagel, Ashish Vengsarkar, Patrick Merrell, Tony Orbach ... aargh, I'm sure there were more. Pro solvers Howard Barkin (not competing), Amy Reynaldo, Ellen Ripstein, Al Sanders, Dan Feyer, Francis Heaney (also a constructor), and ... the rest, I guess. Sorry if I left your name out. I sat near the back next to the pairs who were team-solving (including a charming pair named David and Alli who were chatty as heck) and also next to the defective fire alarm that would beep every, let's say, 50 seconds. I thought R&B were just f&*@king with us, using the annoying sound effect as some kind of level-of-difficulty enhancer, but no. Just a defect. One that never got fixed.
First puzzle, a nice appetizer. Straightforward and fun little number from Deb Amlen. Added dimension: theme answers were acted out for us beforehand by ... hmmm, I think it was Brian's sister, Ryan, and ... someone else. This pre-puzzle acting ended up being VERY helpful, actually, and I got through this one in something like 4 minutes. Puzzle 2 was by far my worst performance of the day. Nothnagel! OK, so first, I had to pee. In and of itself, not eventful. Happens several times a day. But here, as I was listening to the instructions for the puzzle, I was right on the cusp of "go to bathroom / hold it." So I decided to hold it—mistake. Why? Because the explanation of the puzzle went on and on and on and on and on, and so the water and coffee and water finally caught up to me. I went to the bathroom, and when I got back, the puzzle had already started. Wah WAH. Resigned to a subpar time, I started in. In this puzzle, there were two Across clues for every Across answer (same thing with the Downs) and you had to figure out which clues were cluing the same word, and add their numbers together in order to figure out where the answer went in the grid. Sounded horribly difficult, but ended up being weirdly easy—so easy, in fact, that I got very very sloppy about checking off which clues I'd used; if you don't do this, well, trying to figure out the clues for the answers you don't have gets very very messy, as I soon found out. Since there were two clues for every answer, apparently that meant that there could be unchecked letters (normally a crossword no-no). So I got to the point where I had just two Across answers left, and *no* Downs to help me. But ... I couldn't figure out which clues went with which answer (my Across clues were a scrawly, semi-checked off mess). Oh, forgot: there were also two Across clues that ended up cluing not an Across answer, but an answer spelled out by letters in circles. I swear this was easier than it sounds. Anyway, I ended up boxed in the NE corner with --C-TE and no clear idea which clues were supposed to clue it. In my freefall panic, I sort of forgot that the numbers of the two appropriate clues would add up to be the number of the Across slot in the grid. So I finally just started thinking of any words that could fit in that slot and then looking at the clues I didn't believe had been used yet to see if any of them were appropriate. EXCITE? No. RECITE? No. Eventually (after a full ten minutes of freefall) I tried VACATE. Found two clues that fit. Done. Ugh. I could have used Google tickets (they give you these beforehand, and at about the halfway mark of every puzzle they allow you to use them to "Google" a word, resulting in a small penalty), but I don't do Google. Stupid principles!
Puzzle 3 was a Joe Krozel palindrome puzzle—again with the unchecked letters, but this time, the palindromitude actually meant that the apparently unchecked letters were not, in fact, unchecked, i.e. you could get them by knowing that the long, grid-spanning answers were palindromes (again with the circles—this time spelling out PALINDROME or -DROMES, I forget which). Lunch at a local diner with friends and then back for the hardest puzzle of the tournament, by Tyler Hinman (Puzzle 4). All the answers were 7 letters long and answers wrapped around the grid, so Downs that started at the bottom continued around to the top and Acrosses that started in the east continued around to the west. Throw in the fact that the puzzle was Saturday-hard *without* any of the grid trickery, and you had yourself one bear of a puzzle. And yet, as is typical for me in tournament situations, I destroyed it (comparatively). Now, my score indicates that I must have made a mistake somewhere, because honestly, I think I was about the 8th or 9th person done (out of 100+). Faster than the (lovely!) Katie Hamill, who is a way, way better solver than I am. So apparently lunch makes me smarter. Yay. Final puzzle was by Neville Fogarty, a recent college grad, whose puzzle relied on a BACK and UP trick, i.e. some answers ended in BACK and UP, but instead of those parts of the answers being in the grid, they were signified by the reverse direction the answer took. So, for instance, when an answer was HORSEBACK, it went into the grid looking like this: ESROH. My favorite of these answers was probably, SDNEIRFYOBYM. As you can see, all of the puzzles had some extra, unusual dimension to them—except Doug Peterson's puzzle for the Finals. That was all business. Hard business. Three Finalists in the Local (Easy) Division, and then three in the Express (Advanced) Division. I sat and did the puzzle using the Express clues, and it ended up taking me longer than the time allotted to the contestants. Rough rough stuff. But I finished. And so did Jeffrey Harris, the eventual tourney winner, and the only Express finalist to finish in the time allotted.
I left out Patrick Blindauer's clever and entertaining group T-square puzzle, mainly because I and my whole group sucked. We came in last. I blame handwriting vagaries. That, and my bad attitude toward group work.
Then there were awards ceremonies and socializing and then the pizza arrived, but a bunch of us already had dinner plans: continuing our tradition (two years is a tradition, right?) of eating a post-tourney meal at the Jackson Diner, which is in fact a nice Indian restaurant. Along with Angela and Doug and I, there was Tony Orbach, Amy Reynaldo, Patrick Blindauer, Marion Strauss ("mac" on my blog), and Deb Amlen. A really wonderful group. Tournament weekend, over.
Oh, I left out one of the best parts. This woman comes up to me and thanks me for being so kind to her puzzle. I had no idea who she was. Turns out her name was Joanne Sullivan, and she created the (lovely!!!) Landforms puzzle of earlier this year. So we're chatting and she says "I got you something" and I'm all "you shouldn't have" and she pulls a plastic bag out of her satchel and says "I got these at the dollar store" and I'm like "I see..." Turns out to be about half a dozen black wallets, each of which says "ORYX" (25D: Large African antelope) and has a little picture of an oryx on it (FYI in the past, and probably the future if we can get our act together, blogger Amy Reynaldo and I have given out crossword awards—Andrea Michaels convinced us to name the award The ORYX). If we do give ORYXes this year, these wallets will have to factor into the awards ceremony in some way. A seriously awesome, thoughtful gift. You should know that Joanne also creates crossword-inspired works of art, using ceramic tiles, mainly. I think. She really should have a website I can point you to. What the hell, Joanne? Get with the times.
That is all. Ryan & Bryan put on a good show. Next year the tournament will probably be too big for its current venue. Whenever I get details, I'll let you know, and hype it like mad again. A memorable, entertaining experience all around.
You can listen to Ryan & Brian's podcast recap of the tournament here.