SUNDAY, Mar. 8, 2009 - Z Kushner (Fashion photographer Herb / Ill-fated German admiral / Athlete who won the 1978 International Peace Award)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "One More Thing" - "P.S." is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases which are then "?"-clued

Word of the Day: PUFFBALL - A puffball is a member of any of a number of groups of fungus in the division Basidiomycota [...] They are called puffballs because a cloud of brown dust-like spores is emitted when the mature fruiting body bursts. (wikipedia)

You all remembered to set your clocks forward, right? Good. I love having Daylight Saving Time back, generally, but this morning it's all a little abrupt and painful. At least it's warmish.

Puzzles like today's - the add-a-letter-(or-two) type - live or die by the quality of the wacky phrases created. Today there seemed to be equal parts life and death. I doubt I'll soon forget USE THE FORCEPS, LUKE, but I kind of wish I could, both because ... well, the image is displeasing, and the original phrase "Use the Force, Luke," while absolutely verbatim from the first "Star Wars" movie, is not the most in-the-language phrase. It's not even the most in-the-language Force-related phrase ("May the Force be with you" takes that honor). Adding "P.S." to "TO" in GOING TOPS THE POLLS feels awfully ... off, and the phrase is just ungainly and meaningless. I wish the clue on BULLET-PROOF CARPS had been fish-related, even though I realize that the plural of CARP (fish) is CARP. I just like the idea of genetically-engineered killer fish better than I do the absurdity of a non-material entity being "BULLET-PROOF." The other theme answers seem fine, and I there something so completely absurd about ASPS FOR ME that I even kind of like it. Sounds like Cleopatra's ordering her death from a menu at a restaurant.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Rachael Ray activity eliciting oohs and aahs? (cooking with gasPS)
  • 39A: Prepared for heavy on/off traffic? (built ramPS tough) - clever use of commercial slogan
  • 47A: Advice to actor Perry when delivering a baby? ("Use the forcePS, Luke!") - I just now remembered who "Luke Perry" is. HA ha. Dylan.
  • 67A: Cleopatra's last request? ("asPS for me")
  • 86A: Travel is voted most popular? (going toPS the polls)
  • 92A: Result of a good basement waterproofing years ago? (long time, no seePS)
  • 115A: Unassailable beefs? (bullet-proof carPS)

Despite having a basically competent overall design, this puzzle made me gag in a few places. The first gag is probably particular to me - I recently said that EBOLI is on my list of "Do Not Use" words, mainly because it's such an obvious crosswordy crutch. You never want to use EBOLI. Nobody wants to use EBOLI. Sometimes you have to use EBOLI, I guess, but I have decided to treat it like poison (more poisonous than E. COLI, ironically). So boo to this word - though the "B" gives us BWANA (79A: Sir, in Swahili), which makes me laff. Anything with an initial letter string of "BW" is inherently funny. Sadly, EBOLI looks good compared to some other clunkers in this puzzle. STIED!? (108A: Like a pig in a pen). "Boy, Jeb, you STIED that pig good." Or, better yet:

"Hey, look at that pig ... it's STIED"
"Tied for what?"
"I don't see any cord or leash or rope ... what the hell are you talking about?"

STIED, indeed. But even STIED looks decent compared to the least appealing teenage dating move of all time - I'm speaking, of course, about the ACNED REGRAB (5D: Pimply + 6D: Get a better grip on). Man, that's ugly. On so many levels, That Is Ugly. First there's ACNED ... and then, immediately thereafter, REGRAB. One two, with no rest in between. Show a little mercy. At least spread the pain out.

MEG Whitman headlines the "New To Me" category (1A: Former eBay chief Whitman), though I feel like her name was in contention for some kind of political post ... maybe she was an economic advisor to McCain? Let's see ... whoa, she was his national campaign co-chair. That's some good, if hazy, memory I got there. I have no memory of this ELAH movie (71D: "In the Valley of _____" (2007 film)), starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron. The Valley of Elah, I'm told (by Wikipedia), is the place where the Israelites were encamped when David fought Goliath. Other question marks in this puzzle include the clue on ROSE - I know what a tea rose is, but ROSE tea is not familiar (124A: Word before or after tea) - and AQUIFER, which clearly, by its name, bears water, but which I insisted on spelling AQUAFER for a while (27A: Freshwater source). Never heard of Gus KAHN (10D: Gus who wrote the words to "Makin' Whoopee"). The very phrase "makin' whoopee" makes me cringe. Makes me think of Bob Eubanks leering suggestively at newlyweds. Oh, and I don't know this LIAM guy (53D: Irish folk musician O'Flynn). Let's hear what he's got to say for himself:

[This is the music the cops will play to force me out of my hiding hole]


  • 4A: Steal from, as in Grand Theft Auto (carjack) - a fresh and contemporary (if violent) clue. I like it.
  • 22A: "_____ Dawn I Die" (James Cagney flick) ("Each") - great clue for a nothing word.
  • 36A: Viaduct features (spans) - AQUIFERS and Viaducts? What year is it?
  • 60A: _____ Croft, title role for Angelina Jolie (Lara) - first thing I put in the grid, despite my never having seen the film in question. LARA Croft is a Tomb Raider, whatever that is.
  • 64A: Puffball contents (spores) - here I was thinking make-up.
  • 66A: Pioneering 1940s computer (Eniac) - a crosswordese gimme if there ever was one.
  • 72A: Fashion photographer Herb (Ritts) - His name feels very early 90s to me. It also gives off a hint of Madonna. Why? OMG he not only directed Madonna's "Cherish" music video, he took THIS photo (which was hanging on the wall of my best friend's dorm room in college):
  • 90A: Athlete who won the 1978 International Peace Award (Pele) - there are apparently a billion ways to clue this guy. Seems like every other month he's in the grid with some long descriptive clue like this.
  • 11D: What the 300 defended (Sparta) - still haven't read the book or seen the movie. Heading out to "Watchmen" later today.
  • 16D: Coachman's carriage (landau) - one of the many carriage types I learned from crosswords.
  • 25D: Gum-producing plant (guar) - I remember GUAR gum from some 1980s ice cream commercial where someone was reading, with puzzlement and barely concealed disgust, the ingredients list of the rival brand. CARRAGEENAN was the other laughable ingredient.
  • 38D: "I don't get no respect," to Rodney Dangerfield (schtick) - man, that initial consonant cluster is wicked.

  • 42D: Some turban wearers (Sikhs) - true enough
  • 48D: Fishermen with nets (seiners) - er, this one gives me a sort of STIED feeling
  • 49D: Summery (estival) - excuse me, ma'am, you dropped your "F"
  • 51D: Designer Rabanne (Paco) - His name is familiar from perfume / cologne ads of my youth.
  • 81D: Ill-fated German admiral (Spee) - German admiral = SPEE. If you're like me, you will sometimes goof and go SMEE or SNEE.
  • 100D: Any of boxer Foreman's five sons (George) - psych! Their names are his name too. I believe this fact has been referenced in one of the many George Foreman grill ads.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


PlantieBea 9:30 AM  

I'm with Rex on REGRAB and STIED. Not pretty fill. Stared for a long time before SCHTICK came into focus. I'm not familiar with RAM TOUGH so that answer did not make me smile. I did like SPORES for puffballs--we used to pop them when we were kids to see the "smoke". My new word of the day is ESTIVAL.

I didn't love or hate this puzzle--just a medium rating on the enjoyment and difficulty factor.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Rex, I'm surprised at your extreme dislike of Eboli.
This book isn't what you may think. And it's prominent enough for its own page in Wiki.
Granted, its most important time was during WWII, but it says some very interesting things. Just read its story here:


sillygoose 9:32 AM  

Schubert piece = LIED!!! Ha! I was ready for it this time. I got it right.

SEINERS & ESTIVAL was a bit ???

GOINGTOpsTHEPOLLS and ... travel? How about dying, or having the runs?

I learned something new about ravioli.

PPP? Should I Google?

Unknown 9:37 AM  

Pianissimo, P P more P and it means skip these notes because no one will be able to hear them.
If ever a puzzle needed the xword fill of INRE, CCD, BCC, ENC, this one did. Its a letter, right? Still, enjoyed most of the theme answers and the interview at WordPlay gives some insight.

evil doug 9:46 AM  

"Rachael Ray activity eliciting oohs and aahs?"

...when her 15 minutes are up and she goes the way of Jerry Springer and Rosie O'Donnell.


ArtLvr 9:50 AM  

I wasn't too stymied at STIED, supposing that if you can stable the horses than you might sty pigs? Maybe. I did like the FORCEPS -- very funny. And ASP FOR ME was my second-favorite theme answer...

I'm glad you mentioned the leaping clocks, Rex, since I forgot the whole thing last night.


evil doug 9:51 AM  

Was there a recount? How come you're back to 44 instead of 42?


Anonymous 9:52 AM  

I HATED this puzzle. That is all.

Rex Parker 9:55 AM  

Yes, there was a recount. Apparently every jackass who tanked Puzzle 5 is calling in and whining about every last square, and so extra points are being awarded, perhaps even as we speak, to people I used to be ahead of. So it goes.


Rex Parker 9:56 AM  

Not that tanking Puzzle 5 makes you a jackass. It makes you normal. It's just this scroungy, arbitrary rescoring that's got me a little miffed. But only a little.

evil doug 9:56 AM  

You'll always be 42 to me.


Megan P 9:57 AM  

OK, so what is a BEER PONG? The only "pong" I can think of is Britspeak for a horrible smell. . .

Sunday puzzles are never my favorites.

Rex Parker 9:58 AM  

I feel better already. And I'm not even being sarcastic or anything.


Leon 10:03 AM  

Thanks Mr. Kushner.

Thanks RP for the Rappin' Rodney and Liam videos.

Obi Wan to Luke during attack on death star :
Use the Force Luke.
Let go !
Luke, trust me.

Been listening to this all morning : The Hebrides.

Carisa 10:18 AM  

"AQUIFERS and Viaducts? What year is it?"

Rex, I take offense to that comment! I have a 5-year-old house that gets its water through a well drilled into the local aquifer. It's free water!

Jeffrey 10:26 AM  

USE THE FORCEPS, LUKE is the best answer of the year. The type that all add-a-letter puzzles need to be great.

Wonderful Sunday puzzle, although a little scary with CARJACK and SNIPERS.

Survey of the day - WILMA or Marge?

retired_chemist 10:39 AM  

Well, EBOLI was a gimme from previous RP rants.

Overall a nice, fun solve. Normal speed for me, until I had TWO (and a half) squares left in KS/MO. 67A ASPS_OR(M)_ did NOT look like it was leading anywhere. Expecting a two word answer and could not shake that for 20 minutes. NHL today? LIAN O'Flynn? IO was pretty sure LIA_ for an Irish name was LIAM, but not totally. ASP'S HORNS/AS HORNS? Then what is "In the Valley of SLAH? And that was just the least screwy set of my missteps. But, eventually, there was the Homeric D'OH!

Herb RITTS (72A) was a total unknown but the crosses were easy.

Had HANSOM for 16D to start but it made 16A scatological, so no. LANDAU turned 29A from EDSIE into EDDIE Vetter, which sounded more likely. Not that I knew.

Agree with RP re BULLETPROOF CARps - wanted a fish clue.

Liked the new fact about RAVIOLI from the clue.

IMO this is a continuation of an excellent week of puzzles.

joho 10:42 AM  

@sillygoose: regarding GOING TOPS THE POLLS ... all I could think of was "where's the nearest bathroom!"
Ugly, ugly line.

Rex: I thought I liked Irish music until I listened to your clip. It's like Chinese water torture. I guarantee I'd be out of that hole faster than you.

The answers just weren't clever enough for me today ... also I totally agree with everything Rex said except AthElete.

PS: That's crazy about the scoring ... I'm with Evil Doug, we'll keep you at 42.

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

I was looking for a clip of Luke Ski's 'Use the Force' rap, but it doesn't seem to be on the internet (other than the lyrics).

I went to see the Watchmen last night myself. Good movie. Except < spoilers deleted >.

I put in EKG for ECG and SKHTICK set off no warning bells.

Personally I like having the final scores of the tournament be accurate. Speaking as someone else who dropped a few places.

Jeffrey 11:15 AM  

I'm with Karen. Why are known inaccurate scores better? It's not the contestant's fault if the judges made an error.

(I'm down one spot)

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Megan P - Beer Pong is a college drinking game in which partially full beer cups are set at opposite ends of a long table. Teams alternate tossing ping-pong balls across the table into the cups. If they make it in, the other team drinks the beer in the cup. First team to have to drink all their cups loses. The game was recently reported - falsely - on Fox News as causing the transmission of STDs.

Greene 11:34 AM  

@Phillysolver: There is a short passage in Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony actually marked pppppp which gives new meaning to your phrase "just skip these notes because no one will be able to hear them." This single passage has stymied generations of bassoonists who can never seem to play it quietly enough. Some conductors even substitute a bass clarinet in the passage to make it as quiet as possible.

When I was young and still learning the standard orchestral repetoire, I got to this passage on an old Bernstein recording. It got softer and softer and I kept turning up the volume so I could make out what was happening. I thought maybe the movement was ending? Wrong! This inaudible bassoon solo led directly to a thundering "big bang" of an agitated development section so loud that my speakers were completely blown out. Kind of scared the crap out of me too.

Hmmm...anybody know a good classical music blog for me to take this too?

I was a little lukewarm about today's puzzle offering, coming as it did after such a wonderful week of challenges. Still, there were pleasures to be had here, especially USE THE FORCEPS, LUKE and ASPS FOR ME. I actually laughed out loud at the former and grinned at the latter.

I'm annoyed for Rex and the others who dropped in the standings. It seems there is always some crybaby (or two or three) who cries foul at a competition like this. I suppose such behavior is to be expected, by I had hoped when one reached the upper echelons of puzzldom that grace and good sportsmanship would prevail. Dan, of course, provided the perfect example of graciousness at what must have been a difficult call. You don't see him crying to the judges about how he was wronged. Now Rex follows suit. Good for both of you.

archaeoprof 11:35 AM  

Wasn't LANDAU a kind of top on cars back in the 70s? It makes me think of Ricardo Montalbon and Corinthian leather.

Ulrich 11:37 AM  

Count me among those who found too many of the theme phrases cringe-inducing. On the other hand, I learned two new words, SEINER and ESTIVAL, that I had absolutely never, ever seen before. Spent minutes checking and re-checking the crosses to make sure that no other possibilities existed and then goggled to verify.

Complaint of the day: The 300 absolutely did NOT defend Sparta. They were very far from their hometown at Thermopylae, where they tried to prevent the Persians from invading Northern Greece. It's almost like saying the Americans defended the USA in the world wars. And as to the movie, it achieved the feat of getting almost every detail wrong about the historical event--probably more watchable b/c of this, but still...

Chorister 11:39 AM  

@PhillySolver - you're meant to be so rapt and leaning forward in your seat that you do hear those notes :-)

@Rex et al - Are you thinking aquaduct? That might be a previous century, but aquifers are under most of us all the time.

re: scores of all types: I took students to a rated festival last week. All did well for their first time out and got "Excellents." But the certificates and ribbons included one "Superior." I asked for the correct set and was told I could just give the kid the upgrade. (I didn't.) No one people quibble about crosswords.

Listen to enough folk music from around the world and you will find you appreciate some of it more than others, and that it all grows on you. You will also start hearing it's influence in whatever music is your personal taste. I thought it was "hidey hole" anyway.

Speaking of folk music, I'm off to DC for a conference this week and then some sightseeing. Must remember the clock thing. We do DST in AZ, unless you're on the Navajo Reservation.

Chorister 11:41 AM  

No wonder people quibble is what I meant

Chorister 11:42 AM  

Sheesh. We DON'T do DST. I give up. Ta all.

miriam b 11:48 AM  

Maybe I'm in a foul mood, but my reaction is meh, and also feh. Easy puzzle with too many contrived clues.

joho 11:50 AM  

@Karen @Crosscan& @Chorister: You are all absolutely right that the final scores should be accurate. I just wish the correct numbers could have been figured out at the close of the tournament instead of being changes made quite a bit after the fact.

@Rex: I regret mentioning the extra E in Athlete. We all know spelling has nothing to do with intellect ... that particular mistake is a pet peeve of mine ... but it doesn't mean a thing in the scheme of things.

Ulrich 12:01 PM  

Re ACPT scoring: This time, each contestant can see his/her scored puzzles online, and my guess is that the corrections are due to people calling out scoring mistakes they found in their own puzzles. Of concern to me are not the after-the-fact corrections (I believe that an obvious mistake should be corrected--better late than never), but the fact that many mistakes were apparently made in the initial scores.

Rex Parker 12:02 PM  

Yes, thinking AQUADUCT, I'm sure.

RE: the scoring. Yes, accuracy, hurray. But the rescoring is arbitrary, done only if someone asks for it, and therefore I think it's a load of crap. You could argue that the scores are now "more accurate," but unless every score is manually rechecked by an impartial third party, then the whole thing is tainted. I'm guessing most people are like me and accepted the final score without poring over every damned square hunting for an extra 25 points or whatever it is.

PS a misspelling is a misspelling. No need to regret mentioning it (though private mentions are preferred). I corrected "Athlete" (and "Charlize" - thanks, Crosscan)

Rex Parker 12:03 PM  

Four and out! I mean five! Damn!

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

Anonymous 11:31 It's what happens after all the beer has been consumed that is responsible for transmitting the STD.

Had fun with this puzzle - smooth sailing once I figured out the theme.

Jeffrey 12:08 PM  

@joho - I agree, and that was no doubt one reason they now scan the papers. However, technical problems meant many scanned papers weren't onlilne until several days after the Tournament ended, so there was no way of knowing about errors until then. Once they solve this, a posted time limit should be given after which results are final.

If a student on a math test comes and says the answer to this question is 4 and I wrote 4 but you marked it wrong, is it ok for the teacher to say "Yes, it is 4 but I'm not changing your mark?"

@Greene - Dan was indeed gracious, but what happened to him was exactly according to the pre-provided rules, not due to any error.

Isn't there a judge's errors blog I can be directed to? Three and out.

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

I just discovered this blog. I didn't realize this puzzle was so bad until I read here. Interesting. I think I'm going to learn alot here. Also, I don't get asps for me. Can someone help? Also, what interview? I can't find it. Sorry for all the questions.


SethG 12:20 PM  

SEINERS was new to me. So was SUINERS, which was what I had. S[vowel]S...French!

USE THE FORCEPS, LUKE is awesome. I thought "cooking with gas" was a much weaker base phrase than the "force" one. Agree that GOING... is lame, and I had a lot of difficulty parsing but kinda like LONG TIME NO SEEPS.

I'm (not, but I used to be) Sethicus.

joho 12:43 PM  

@anon 12:15 Karen -- the phrase "as for me" was changed to ASPS FOR ME as that's what Cleopatra used to kill herself.

3 and out ... enjoy your Sunday everybody!

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Karen, interview here

mac 12:53 PM  

Not a great Sunday puzzle, with just a few high notes to me. Liked the Luke and the asps answers the best (Clue with Cleopatra = asp related) but I am still staring at the "built ram(ps) tough", that is one vague ad line.

@Greene, I'm still laughing about your comment; I will never forget this PPP... thing!

Never had rose tea, although I just googled it and it exists. I guess you can flavor tea with anything. I do like rosehip tea, though.

Doing a lot of puzzles is clearly helping me; Eniac came out of nowhere. Not so crazy about coif for bangs, but I like 35D B-plus.

I'm not high enough in the ranks to worry about my final standing.... Once a puzzle / tournament is behind me, it's on to the next.

chefbea 12:57 PM  

welcome anonymous Karen.

Got the theme right away with gasps and assumed the ps would come at the end of all themes.

Never knew ravioli = little turnips. I'm sure you all know that turnips are the same shape as another wonderful tuber we all enjoy. And their tops are delicious as well. Better go look up some recipes.

Lili 1:04 PM  

That 1980's Breyer's ice cream commercial featured someone I knew: Fred Newman, not long out of Harvard Business School when I met him and clearly less interested in Wall Street than in acting. I would never have gotten "guar gum" if I hadn't paid attention to the commercial back then because of Fred.

I've read a lot of Italian literature, so the "Eboli" answer always comes quickly for me. "Stied" was appalling, and "Built ramps tough" had me stymied. I got the answer easily enough but the fact that "Built ram tough" came from a commercial was unknown to me. My husband had to explain.

I loved "triste" for melancholy. An evocative word. Sigh.

Greene 1:08 PM  

@Crosscan: Yes, I see the point you are making, but I'm not certain I agree with your conclusion. I believe wherever graded competition exists, there is an implicit understanding that judging might be imperfect. I'm not saying this is desirable or fair; it just is. In the interests of organized competition, contestants usually acknowledge this potential failing and agree to abide by the rulings of the judges at the time of entry.

When a math student notices an error in the grading of his test paper, of course the teacher needs to acknowledge and correct the error. But a math test is not a national competition where the standings of multiple other contestants are affected by the quibblings of a few.

I think Rex makes a very compelling point about an even larger injustice, namely that unless an independent third party rescores all the entry grids, then the whole process is inaccurate and ultimately tainted. It doesn't appear that the current standings are any more accurate than they were before. Some carpers have just been moved a little bit higher in the ranks, so what's the point really? Would those same complainers be contacting Will Shortz if their grids had been overscored and their true ranking was lower?

I realize that Dan was abiding by the rules of the tournament, but experience teaches that even clearly articulated rules are no guarantee of gracious behavior by anybody and I've seen people raise a stink over far less than what befell Dan. His good manners and willingness to abide by the rules are inspirational and an excellent example for all of us to follow.

HudsonHawk 1:16 PM  

@joho, I've clearly been watching a lot of college basketball lately, because the GOING phrase made me think of the Flomax ad that always seems to run in every commercial break.

Loved the cluing for SNIPERS, but overall, just a so-so puzzle.

And thanks for mentioning the rescoring--I fell from 259 to 260. Seriously, if you're down in my territory, why are you worried about rescoring? Oh well, at least it's a nice round number.

Anonymous 1:30 PM  

Oh, my, I didn't realize Cleapatra killed herself. It makes sense now. Thanks you, joho. Also thanks for the interview link. Very interesting.

jeff in chicago 2:05 PM  





retired_chemist 2:13 PM  

@ Greene et al. -

Student complaints about simple errors are fixable as you say. My policy when the complaint was about a judgment call on an essay or short answer question (this was chemistry, not math - YMMV) was to offer to regrade the ENTIRE paper. That was on the basis that I was as likely to have erred in a positive sense on other questions. Not many took me up on it.

jae 2:32 PM  

This one was medium in difficulty and enjoyment for me. Agree with the clunkers already discussed but did like the FORCE and ASPS answers. The best thing about this puzzle is that the RITTS answer finally let me complete a BEQ from a couple of weeks ago that's been sitting on my desk.

jae 3:35 PM  

Actually that BEQ was from Dec.

Kurt 3:35 PM  

There's no whining in crosswords! You're 42. Enough already!

Kurisu 3:57 PM  

ASPS FOR ME was the last thing I got (too many names in that area), and it did make me laugh.

I had ESOLI and SWANA; I guess that was a natick for me.

PONG was the first thing I thought of for BEER but I couldn't believe that would actually be in a puzzle so it took me a long time to actually write that in.

"High-speed inits." I first wrote confidently as SST, of course later I corrected it to DSL but then I was amused to see SSTS show up for real at 105A.

chefwen 3:58 PM  

@jeff in chicago - ditto
Born and raised in the beer capitol of the country and never heard of beer PONG, it must be a relatively new game because if it was around when we were in college our gang would have been the pros.

Anonymous 3:59 PM  

FORCEPS was especially unnerving to me, because it reminded me of the birth of my first daughter. I won't go into details, and it all turned out fine, but I strongly urge young parents to familiarize themselves with forceps BEFORE the labor. They can seriously freak you out.

chefwen 3:59 PM  

P.S. I don't care what they say Rex, you are #1 in my book.

Anonymous 4:02 PM  

@Greene...< raises hand > Yes, I contacted Doug about being overscored, and my re-ranking is now accurate. Feel free to debate if I'm being honorable or stupid. I also expect this problem to go away if they can get the extra bandwidth at the hotel to upload the scans right away.

AV 4:11 PM  

Here's a judge's perspective re: Judging at ACPT.

I am glad that contestants are calling in and pointing out mistakes. The scoring and judging was much improved this year (thanks to Matt Ginsberg's new scanning system), but we need to get feedback so we can improve the accuracy.

My guess is that most "errors" can be attributed to the human aspect of the process and not the new scanning system. There are at least three types of error that come to my mind:

Error Type 1: A judge made a mistake, plain and simple - this can happen when the group has approximately 4900 puzzles (or to be more dramatic, over 1.5 million little squares) to check. [Puzzle 5, especially, had swaths of yellow highlighter marks]. In this case, the judge's initials are at the back of the puzzle which Doug Heller (the chief judge) can see. He can inform an unusually errant judge that he/she needs to watch it - and if this under-performance continues next year, he will garnish his/her wages! (Just kidding).

Error Type 2: This is a subtlety - let's say a solver wrote "ICAN" instead of "IMIN" and there are no crossing correct entries. It is possible that the judge splashed a yellow stripe through the wrong answer. According to the rules, though, the judge should only put a yellow mark on the C and the A (since the I and the N are correct letters!). This is a valid complaint and should be corrected. [There were many such instances in the puzzles where a common "wrong" answer had several correct letters and we had to watch out for these].

Error Type 3: This is the difficult one (where Rex's complaint may be valid) - a solver has put in a T, then erased it; the letter is barely visible. The intent seems to be an erasure but we can see the remnants of the T. In almost all cases at my table, a judge would turn to other judges and seek an opinion. Now here's the "rub": once you put a yellow highlighter on the paper, the erased T appears to stand out more clearly than it did before!! If you were looking at the scans and felt the T was obviously present, but the judge had previously ruled this an erasure, I am not sure how one makes this call!

This is probably TMI for most - but I wanted to take this opportunity for a shout-out to Doug and Matt for coordinating a fairly complex process with great composure.

I am sure this process will improve next year, so hope to see you there!

Greene 4:39 PM  

@Karen: Of course your intentions are honorable and I would never consider you stupid for reporting an error which lowered your ranking. On the contrary, your integrity sounds impeccable.

Perhaps the stupid one is me for shooting off my mouth about I process I was not fully knowledgeable of (thanks to Ashish for insights on some of the problems the judges faced), particularly since I didn't even attend the party in question. I should probably also learn to be a bit more trusting of people's motives. Karen, I offer you my most sincere apology.

Three and out.

edith b 4:45 PM  

I am certain that this puzzle was built around the answer USETHEFORCEPSLUKE and Will was reluctant to throw out the baby with the bath, hence all the problems Rex and other have pointed out.

But this one is most certainly a "first puzzle" and perhaps allowances should be made but I am not one to judge as I don't care much for these oversized puzzles anyway.

George NYC 5:04 PM  

I happened to be listening to an Ashkenazy performance of Pathetique while doing the puzzle. My power amp shuts off automatically if there is no input for 15 seconds or so; this is one of a handful of works that requires me to flick the "always on" switch on the back of amp lest it turn off during long, quiet passages. Mahler No 2 is blown speakers though :)

Stan 5:52 PM  

Like most folks here, I really liked some theme answers (GASPS, FORCEPS, and NOSEEPS in my case) and didn't care for others. Best cluing was for SPORES, SNIPERS, and RAVIOLI.

@Crosscan (re survey): Marge Simpson is one of the great characters of World Literature. Wilma Flintstone is okay, but kind of cartoonish...

Boo 5:53 PM  

Valley of Elah is a very good movie. Get the DVD and enjoy - better than No Country For Old Men in my view.

Jon 5:55 PM  

One thing that REALLY bugged me about today's puzzle: "Built Ram Tough" isn't a legit phrase. The slogan is "Built Ford Tough", right? Am I crazy here? I cry foul!!!!

Ulrich 5:57 PM  

@ashish: Thanks also from me for the honest and informative explanation.

The whole business reminds me of the current debate raging in soccer circles about instant replay. In a low scoring game like soccer, a penalty unjustly given or withheld, or a goal unjustly denied or given b/c of the offside rule, can decide a game. Week after week, fans can see such bad decisions on TV via slomo replay, and the voices are getting louder demanding instant replay during a game in some form, taking American football as a precedent. And the sides are like the sides in today's discussion. The ones who do not want change argue that soccer refereeing has always been error-prone. Players and fans should understand that at the outset and get on with it. On the other side are people like me who believe that new technology "changes the game" and that for the sake of fairness as well as peace of mind the game should adapt.

Applied to the ACPT, it believe this: For the first 100 places or so, moving up or down by only a few places may mean getting a trophy (age, geographical area etc) or not, and if new technology enables us to see mistakes that would change rankings that matter in this sense, we should take advantage of it and correct the mistakes. It's only fair w.r.t. the people who would otherwise be denied a prize they have honestly earned. Farther down the rankings, it's for the birds and bees, I agree.

chefbea 6:09 PM  

@crosscan I vote for Marge

And where is the blog for judging puzzles?? Gosh maybe I will come in first next year when I'm a rookie, due to a judging error

fergus 6:11 PM  

Kind of a dreary puzzle, though I did like ... NO SEEPS.

I like having ECG, but have got so used to EKG that I don't bother to spell Cardio with a C.

ESTIVAL was new to me, but must have some relation to the warm French season. APISH sort of sums up this Sunday puzzle. Glad to see Nothnagel's byline on the Diagramless.

retired_chemist 6:14 PM  

@ John - I believe you are right. Googling "Built Ram Tough" generates nothing specific, while "Built Ford Tough" generates ad copy. And also this :-(

Three and out.

evil doug 6:36 PM  

Denying crossworders their rightful claim to a trophy? Good grief. I'm going to have trouble getting to sleep tonight.


Anonymous 6:40 PM  

I loved it and I laugh every time I think of the one with asps or forceps. I couldn't wait to solve the next one. The only downside was seeing Rachel Raye's name. Apparently there is nowhere where she is not. I have nothing against her; it's just that no one should be allowed to use that much space in the world.

@Jeff in Chicago - Beautiful.

@Rex - re last night's comments - The blog deserves credit because it raises questions and provides answers and generally elevates the crossword solving experience.

Orange 6:53 PM  

Now I'm feeling bad about my 2006 tournament, when my husband noticed after I came home that I ws super-slow (relatively speaking) on one puzzle and asked what happened to me on that puzzle. Well, nothing—the referee's hastily written "25" minutes remaining looked like a "20," and I was docked 125 points as a result. So I e-mailed the powers that be (I'd jotted down my minutes remaining on each puzzle, so I knew what the scoring error was), and the next year, Al Sanders, Katherine Bryant, and I exchanged the 5th, 6th, and 7th place trophies. Maybe I should've kept quiet—but Al and Katherine, like everyone at the tournament, are nice and honest people who wouldn't have asked that of me. I feel a teeny bit bad now, though.

And believe me, I noticed how neatly referee Vic Fleming wrote down my minutes remaining last weekend. Much appreciated!

Anonymous 7:00 PM  

LIAM O'Flynn is the music the cops will play to
lure me out of my hiding hole.

evil doug 7:01 PM  

I believe everyone who participates in the crossword championship should get a trophy! Same as high school, where everybody gets something on awards day! Also, all college students should get an A if they try hard! And anybody who wants some money should be able to tap into the government handout! And our grandchildren should get a trophy for having the largest debt in the history of the universe!


Anonymous 7:23 PM  

I thought this one was an unenjoyable bore, a weak coda to a great week.
Now everybody will hate me. No sour grapes here as I did solve preceding ones minus google.

Jeffrey 7:23 PM  

2007 I was 3rd in ny region (top 2 get trophies). I asked for where my errors were. They told me and said they discovered a scoring error. Moved me to 2nd. But 4th place guy moved up as well and I was back to 3rd.
The judges say this is only my third comment.

Jeffrey 7:30 PM  

My region not New York.

Bazillion and out.

Anonymous 8:52 PM  

This puzzle had too many forced (acned, regrab) answers for my taste. And the theme didn't do much for me. Still, it was just about redeemed by the "use the forceps, Luke" answer.

Seeing whether an answer has been erased fully in a crossword puzzle competition brings up visions of the Minnesota senate race of 2008 and, of course, the events of 2000.

Anonymous 9:16 PM  

No "bang for the buck", Just a dull slog.

sillygoose 9:57 PM  

@PhillySolver - thanks for helping me out on ppp. I like your explanation :-)

@joho - thanks for letting me know I am not alone in my crossword puzzle thoughts. I often wonder....

One of the worst scoring mistakes involved the 2004 Olympic Games. A gold medal was awarded to an American gymnast, Paul Hamm, instead of Yang Tae Young of S. Korea because the judges accidentally gave the wrong start value for one of his routines. A protest was lodged and taken to the
highest possible authority. The verdict was - the games are over and the decision stands. The competition itself seems more important than the awards (unless, of course, money is involved). :-o.

dk 10:11 PM  

Speaking of viaducts.....

Hammer: No, that's the stockyard. Now, all along here, this is the river front. And all along the river...all along the river, those are all levies.

Chico: That's the Jewish neighborhood?

Hammer: (pause) Well, we'll Passover that...You're a peach, boy. Now, here is a little peninsula, and, eh, here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.

Chico: Why a duck?

Hammer: I'm alright, how are you? I say, here is a little peninsula, and here is a viaduct leading over to the mainland.

Chico: Alright, why a duck?

Hammer: (pause) I'm not playing "Ask Me Another," I say that's a viaduct.

Chico: Alright! Why a duck? Why that...why a duck? Why a no chicken?

Hammer: Well, I don't know why a no chicken; I'm a stranger here myself. All I know is that it's a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken and you'll find out why a duck.

Chico: When I go someplace I just...

Hammer: (interrupts) It's...It's deep water, that's why a duck. It's deep water.

Chico: That's why a duck...

Hammer: Look...look, suppose you were out horseback riding and you came to that stream and you wanted to ford over...You couldn't make it, it's too deep!

Chico: Well, why do you want with a Ford if you gotta horse?

Hammer: Well, I'm sorry the matter ever came up. All I know is that it's a viaduct.

Anonymous 11:10 PM  

I got the answer Landau because my dad had a '73 Ford LTD "Landau" which I think referred to the interior. It was a land yacht.

George NYC 11:23 PM  

I think landau refers to a hard top style during the bulgemobile era in which the back part of the roof was faux leather (plastic). Name goes back to a certain kind of horse-drawn carriage of the early 1900s I believe.

David 12:40 AM  

There were definitely a few cringes and a few awkward spots---got quite stymied on those two squares in Northern California, and really need to remember how SISALS is spelled---but overall a decent puzzle. Like retired_chemist said, it was a solid end to a really nice week of puzzles.

Use the Forceps was definitely great, I'm glad that was the first theme answer I figured out. Nothing quite lived up to that, but I did get a solid chuckle out of Long Time No Seeps. Not as crazy about Asps For Me, but I can at least appreciate it.

I admit, I filled in PONG a little too readily, and then changed in when the W in WILMA made me try out SWAMI. Looking back, even I should have known that didn't make sense. But BWANA is a great answer, and came a lot easier thanks to a D-list superhero. Hooray for reading. Also, easily the funniest clue I can ever imagine for GEORGE, well done.

Btw, anyone else surprised to see TIP OVER in the puzzle again so soon, and with the exact same clue? I thankfully learned my lesson Friday, as I had messed up and put in TOPPLED, so I liked getting it right this time.

On scoring, I can't help but think about bar trivia from a few weeks ago. We were told to guess the 10 films which have won the most Oscars, and put them in order. My team included Slumdog Millionaire in the 8-Oscars part of our list. Somehow, even though the question was based on the recent Oscars, the hosts hadn't updated; they just read the names of previous years' movies that won 8 or more Oscars.

When the mistake was pointed out, first he assumed that his list must be films with 9 or more, explaining why Slumdog wouldn't be on it. After that idea was debunked, he said something like "Oh, wow, I guess you're right. But I really should go with what's on my answer sheet." It was pretty ridiculous, and thankfully he changed his mind based on reactions.

I agree that not everyone goes over their graded puzzles, and that people hunting for extra points could ultimately skew things. That said, when confronted with a clear mistake in any particular square, I have trouble arguing against fixing that error. I wouldn't want to be the guy telling people that their scores are final even though wrong. Re-grading more than just the reported square seems like an ok compromise, but also potentially a lot of, not an easy issue.

Anyway, see everyone in the new week.

mac 7:06 AM  

@dk: just got up and read your last post.... LOL!

Anonymous 6:12 PM  

I figured out ESTIVAL because I know of "estivation", the practice of sleeping through the summer, as opposed to "hibernation".

Sara 11:30 PM  

@Karen: You can find "Use the Force" here:

DanaJ 10:51 AM  

Am I the only one who wanted "beer BONG", also known as "funneling"?
Brought back memories of tenth grade...

Stan 11:27 AM  

@DanaJ -- I thought of Beer BONG too -- but it didn't work with the cross. Beer PONG (well-explained above) is newer, I think.

Anonymous 12:50 PM  

The clue ___Lingus is just wrong when you haven't had your coffee yet!

Anonymous 11:49 PM  

Rex, I think if you listened to Ray Charles recording of "Makin Whoopee", you might get over your dislike of the phrase.

Anonymous 3:49 AM  

@rex -- I had to laugh at the music that would flush you out of a hiding place. On a related note, I recall reading recently that a shopping mall in Australia has started playing Barry Manilow music to drive away loitering teenagers....

Anonymous 4:20 AM  

I think the ad slogan was "Dodge trucks are ram tough." It was a song.

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