Playable character Guitar Hero III / SUN 2-21-10 / Robert Ripley's specialty / Emulates rhabdomantist / Science duplicating nature

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Constructor: Eric "Horse's Ass" Berlin

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Words from the White House — word strings that sound like the names of UNITED STATES PRESIDENTs (9D: What you'll get if you read aloud 23-, 44-, 67-, 86- or 113-Across)

Word of the Day: LAWRENCE Summers (99A: Obama economic adviser Summers) —

Lawrence Henry Summers (born November 30, 1954) is an American economist and the Director of the White House's National Economic Council for President Barack Obama. Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He is the 1993 recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal for his work in several fields of economics and was Secretary of the Treasury for the last year and a half of the Clinton Administration.
• • •

Rex Parker here, coming to you live from the lounge adjacent to the bar at the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge. The first day of competition at this year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is now over — I didn't compete and have no idea what the rankings look like, though you can check them out on-line.

[Hours pass as people come into the bar and talk to me and generally prevent me from being productive ...]

Now I'm back in my room and my wife's asleep so I'm trying to type as quietly as I can, and probably not succeeding. I liked this puzzle a lot. Theme was goofy, but in a way that made it fun to uncover. On the whole, a supremely easy puzzle. No sticking points at all except the theme answers — no, the answers themselves weren't hard, but figuring out which presidents they were supposed to sound like was, at least initially, rough. Part of the reason I like the theme is that the aural resemblance between answers and presidents is soooo tenuous at times. Answers felt like Frankenstein's monsters, unnatural patchworks that resembled human beings only be significant feats of imagination. The rest of the grid was fine — good, actually. Only one painful part — where ENISLE (94A: Strand) meets ALERS (91D: Yanks and others). Otherwise, dandy. Please note the awesomeness of non-Star-Wars OBI (81A: Japanese tie) crossing Star Wars KENOBI (63D: Skywalker's friend). If crosswordese (in this case, OBI) wants to show up to the puzzle, then you should damn well make it earn its keep.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Anatomical pouch / Run on TV / Consume / Feel sick / Oral history (sac air eat ail lore => ZACHARY TAYLOR)
  • 44A: Christmas season / Greet a villain / Speak aloud / Query / Monthly payment (Yule hiss say ask rent => ULYSSES S. GRANT)
  • 67A: Least smart / Kitchen worker / Towel word / ___ Fein (dumbest chef hers Sinn => THOMAS JEFFERSON)
  • 86A: Trash / Victories / "Get it?" / Do some math / Runs smoothly (junk wins see add hums => JOHN QUINCY ADAMS)
  • 113A: Most shaggy / Hotel offering / Actress Goldie (hairiest room Hawn => HARRY S. TRUMAN)
Too late to stay up writing, so let's go straight to bullets —

  • 20A: Its national anthem is "La Dessalinienne" (Haiti) — French anthem, but answer is not FRANCE. Easy.
  • 27A: Appropriately named monthly of the National Puzzler's League, with "The" ("Enigma") — little insider reference for many of the puzzle dorks at the tourney this weekend. I don't belong to the League, but you don't need to to be able to infer this one.
  • 26A: "Big Love" setting (Utah) — cannot work up any desire to see this show.
  • 29A: Mamet play revived on Broadway in 2009 ("Oleanna") — I find most shows about academia unwatchable. Too much caricature, too inaccurate in one way or another. Best college movie ever? "Real Genius" with Val Kilmer (1986). No weighty issues like sexual harassment. Just ... Val Kilmer, unwittingly making a weapon for the government while wise-cracking and skirt-chasing all over the Pomona College campus. Good times.
  • 36A: Robert Ripley's specialty (oddities) — as opposed to Tom Ripley's specialties: stalking, murdering, and identity theft.
  • 41D: Science of duplicating nature (bionics) — good clue; answer was unexpected. Thought genetics might be involved somehow.
  • 59D: Holder of the alphabet (Ouija) — Great clue, though I would have thought "board" would have to follow "OUIJA" here...
  • 77D: Emulates rhabdomantist (dowses) — "rhabdos" = "rod, twig, stick"
  • 92D: Playable character in Guitar Hero III (Slash) — onetime Guns 'N' Roses guitarist.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Denise Ann 1:58 AM  

At the tournament too -- I had five perfect puzzles, and one BEQ disaster. Today's puzzle was a cheery reminder of what fun this all is!!
All that silly fill can add up to SOMETHING PRESIDENTIAL!

chefwen 2:27 AM  

Kind of a slog at times, but doable. Husband and I did a dual effort and we both thought it was all a bit of a stretch. O.K. but not truly enjoyable.

Looking forward for more ACPT updates.

Clark 3:43 AM  

What @Rex said. This was a stitch. I had 90% of the theme lines and all of the reveal 9D, and I could not figure out what was going on. So I just started saying DUMBESTCHEFHERSSINN over and over again blurring and slurring it. And then, DOH, with a slap to the head, I got it.

OBI wan KENOBI, who is a Japanese sash and a Jedi knight, but mostly just my favorite boy cat, was very happy to be included in the puzzle. Thank you Mr. Berlin.

HudsonHawk 7:50 AM  

Like Denise, I'm 5 for 6 at ACPT, and had about 90% of BEQ's puzzle 5 completed when time ran out. All of that is good enough to put me at #222. Don't let anyone tell you time isn't important...

Liked the Berlin puzzle today. He created two double puzzles for Friday's festivities. Identical grids, but you had to figure out whether the clues were for puzzle one or two. One more catch: the clues were pictures flashed on a screen for about 2 seconds, and you had to team up with a partner.

mac and I paired up and did OK, but imsdave and Jan O. from CT were next to us rocking through them. (Jan finished second at Westport and is currently in Rex territory at #46 after puzzle 6).

OK, I'm off to catch the 4 train to Brooklyn. Happy puzzling!

edith b 8:05 AM  

@Rex re: Oleanna

My husband is fond of saying that whenever there is a movie made about something he knows anything about, they get it wrong. That is probably axiomatic for everyone.

I agree with the Easy rating but that didn't make it less of a slog. The only redeeming feature was trying to sound out the Presidents' names which I found refreshing but that was kind of a meta to me as I kept filling this one in like it was a Monday.

I've seen ENSILE so frequently that it is a neon but a bad one. I didn't stumble over it any more that I stumble over ALER.

I could have forgiven this puzzle's sins if the Presidents had been in order. Elegance uber alles.

My capcha is ronsch, which is kind of an ironic commentary on this puzzle.

Elaine 8:21 AM  

I actually had some mis-directions. I wanted ODD FACTS for ODDITIES, TUNICS instead of SANDALS, ABOMBS instead of UBOATS, UNCURL instead of UNCORK.... though all easily came clear.

The Zachary Taylor string went in first....didn't 'get it.' The Ulysses S. Grant went in second; huh? It was the Thomas Jefferson line that made the NICKEL drop.

Hardest part of the puzzle: dealing with the tiny grid print-out (eyes watering, misreads.) This was just okay for me, dawg. Prefer puns.

Zack 8:56 AM  

Couldn't find any love for this puzzle, just not to my taste. The only good aspect was when attempting to compose my post for this AM, looking up the spelling of Ooxteplernon and finding how far and wide it has become known. It's been written up in the UK dude!

@Edith B - I hope ENSILE wasn't too clear to you, as the answer was ENISLE (unless your fingers just wouldn't, couldn't, type it twice, in which case please ignore my correcting a typo), which is even more horrible then your answer.

ArtLvr 9:31 AM  

I was solving in the SW first, where I found Hairest TRUMAN and had a good laugh. Next to that was the section from SPARTA down, with PRESIDENT. All the rest fell easily.

Unfortunately, it also dropped steadily in the fun factor for me. JUNK WINS SEE ADD HUMS was slightly amusing, but two punny twists were enough and more were just a pain. That 5D formula for PARABOLA? Yuk.

My last bit was fixing the end of the Wedding to WEDLOCK, revealing the obscure OUIJA, CANALS and KENNEL. I 'spose I was SLO, but just didn't care -- not best in show.

Have a good day, all...


Leslie 9:32 AM  

It took the NICKEL = Thomas Jefferson link for me to get the theme, too. Until then, I was scanning all those long lines thinking that abbreviated state names (CA, MI, etc.) were hiding in them. I like the real theme SO much better!

CoolPapaD 9:42 AM  

I loved this, but what makes it even better is that Rex liked it! I am terrible at predicting which ones he will like or not (and I swear, I've read this blog every day for the past 1 1/2 years). Thought the theme was a gimmee from the get-go, as SAC is a no-brainer now, and, what else could that mean except the first syllable of Zachary Taylor?! (I wonder if the current President on "24" is his great-great-grand daughter.) Have we had a phonetic-type theme like this before?

Rex - when you have a moment in the next days, can you give us a sense about what % of ACPT participants read your blog daily (I'm guessing over 90 - 95%). How many hits do you generally get per day, and the ratio of posters to lurkers? Just curious! Good luck to all those lucky enough to be there!

Oh - big props for a non-Simpson's APU!

Meg 9:44 AM  

I laughed out loud (always a good sign) at the first string. Hand up for WEDDING. I also had trouble with "Shall We Dance" because all I could think of was "The King and I". Oh yeah, it's a movie.

Misreading "bases", I had AMPS instead of UMPS, thinking rock bands.

Just being picky, but the clue for OAT seems off. One OAT could hardly be a meal....well maybe for a small roach.

Overall a fun puzzle! Go Amy!!!

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

I'm guessing Rex will have to find a new catchphrase of sorts, since the 44th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver in the Universe!' tag no longer applies. I suppose 'I was once the...' would still fit ;)

Didn't care for this puzzle. I was just happy to be over and done with it.

edith b 10:22 AM  


It was a simple typo. I'm sorry if my answer offended you but I try to be honest in my assessment of the puzzles.

Horrible? Jeez Louise, isn't that a bit strong?

joho 10:27 AM  

Seeing organ/ "I ___ Ike/ _ Street Band/ Michael Jackson's last movie, "____ Is It."/ Toy in an egg, ____ Putty/ Enigma.

At times this felt like I was having FITS (Filling In The Spaces) but at finishing it was worth the time spent. I laughed while speaking the presidents' names. Very silly and fun payoff. Loved it in the end, Eric Berlin ... thanks!

foodie 10:33 AM  

Doing this puzzle reminded me that I still have a ways to go in slurring my words together. It's like I missed a critical developmental period for slurring by the time I learned American English... Work in progress.

Rex, I agree that most shows about academia get it wrong-- the truth is more interesting, fun, random and yet corrosive at times, than ever portrayed.

I too wanted something to do with genetics and had trouble giving up CLONING for BIONICS.

Easy once you figure out the theme, with some good fill.

OldCarFudd 10:36 AM  

Agree with easy. Disagree with fun. I just plain didn't like it, and I normally enjoy puns. Sorry!

Ulrich 10:38 AM  

@ All nerds who love to study score sheets:

The race to be in the playoffs to determine the overall 1, 2 and 3 ranking is interesting. Dan Feyer currently leads no 2, Howard Barkin, by 50 points; Barkin leads Anne Erdmann and Tyler Hinman (4-time winner) by 25 points--the two are tied for third. The important fact here is that one collects an additional 25 points for every minute one turns the puzzle in ahead of time. Since we can safely assume that everyone in the top group will turn in a correct version of puzzle no 7 today, Hinman and Erdman are only 1 minute out of 2nd place--I don't think they will be able to make up an additional 2 minutes on Feyer, whose score for any puzzle hasn't been bested by anyone so far; i.e. nobody finished any puzzle ahead of him--Barkin finished at the same time for all puzzles but #5, where he lost 2 minutes on Feyer, and I can't see Feyer losing his #1 spot (I'm rooting for him--I met him two years ago at lunch and he had bad luck last year).

Trip Payne, who made the playoffs during the 2 years I attended, doesn't seem to be able to make it this time.

ArtLvr 10:39 AM  

I just visited the CrosswordFiend website and found that the start of the parabola formula was supposed to be X squared. Hah.

Also saw a report on interim tournament standings, must be very exciting!

I'm mainly unhappy today because of a news item saying that Austria may be ending support for the venerable Spanish Riding School of Vienna. If so, what a sad loss! I last saw those beautiful white Lipizzaner stallions dancing to Mozart while they were on tour here ten years ago -- and Mary Stewart's book "Airs Above the Ground", a mystery about a long lost star of the show, was one of the most magical books of my childhood!


Aleman 10:40 AM  

McSorley’s is always welcome.

Central Coast Brewing in California features : SLO CHAI Cream ALE.

ArtLvr 10:47 AM  

@ Ulrich -- thanks for your update too! It seems we were typing at the same time here.


Elaine 10:47 AM  

Okay, now here is a question: on the WordPlay blog and above in these Comments, this puzzle's theme gimmicks are referred to as "puns."

To me, for something to be punny, you need the primary utterance to have meaning. A string of unrelated words (which is to say, these clues) that can be interpreted as names due to modest resemblance when run together....this doesn't fit my notion of a pun. It's a playful toying with the phonetics, but how does this constitute a pun?

Awaiting enlightenment....

Hand up for CLONING...which I had to deconstruct letter by letter because I was so, so sure....

rhentsms-- maybe that's what these 'slur the word' tricks should be called?

lit.doc 10:56 AM  

This is without a doubt the most totally weird-assed puzzle concept I’ve ever seen. Figured out the “names of American presidents in Martian” thing once I filled 67A, and immediately regretted that I was drinking Propel instead of Jameson’s.

Ok, so at 71:33 I said screw it (having finished all else without google) and plugged M at the cross of 94A and 91D, on the theory that “Yanks” was signaling an abbreviation, apparently AMER’S. But ENISME??!! The down crosses all seem unassailable to me, but if that’s either a word or, perhaps worse, a phrase I can’t parse, I’m [insert hyperbolic, meaningless threat re future actions].

I only installed six speed bumps which is, for me, progress on a 21x grid. ENLIST before SIGN UP, SOLVER before ENIGMA, CLONING before BIONICS, MEANDER before SAUNTER, ROO before OWL, and, in quick succession, JAN, JUN, and then JUL.

I do so look forward to tomorrow’s write-up.

Morning addendum: ok, fine, “American League East’eRS”. Were this BEQ’s blog, I would comment further.

Back after reading the comments. I sincerely no one else thought of ENISLE, which is only a verb, but rejected it because “isle” locked up their brains so they didn’t get past “strand” as a noun.

jesser 11:08 AM  

Sped through it, except for the blunder at 9D where I confidently wrote in UNITES STATES of America once the UN and ST were in place. It fit! But it was wrong! Once that sorted itself out, the rest went nicely. Last letter in the grid was the L in 33D. ONELS? ONE Ls? O NELS? I am grateful to PALEO, is what I'm saying.

The name play was among this week's many ODDITIES, but I was OK with it. I liked it a LOTT!

Scout! (how uninspiring!) -- jesser

slypett 11:18 AM  

I don't want to sound too negative, so I'll start out by saying IHATEDTHISPUZZLETOPIECES. None of the theme entries sounded like the names they were supposed to represent. SINN is pronounced 'shin'. Who pronounces JUN as 'jon'? RENT sounds nothing like 'rant'. DUMB='tom'? GIVEMEABREAK!

It was good to see a shout-out to HAITI.

Commo: a moveable sink, for short (neo-crosswordese).

edith b 11:34 AM  

@foodie made a good point. I wondered when I was doing this puzzle how non-native English speakers would react to a puzzle that asked for. . . repronunciation of nonsense syllables to form legitimate English words.

Any puzzle that relies on pronunciation is always problematic due to regional differences in "sounding out" words.

PIX 11:37 AM  

Agree with does "dumb" sound like Thom...when words start sounding that alike, it's time to put the beer bottles down and go to bed.

x squared = 4py as the formula for the parabola? very very weird...usually given as y = x squared or y = 4 (x squared)...while perhaps technically acceptable, the p seems very out of place there for a crossword puzzle if put there by someone who really does not know the formula for a parabola

Have to rate this as easy (but very silly); it's not noon yet and i am done.

Susan 11:47 AM  

@Elaine I wouldn't call these puns either.

I thought it was funny, though. But unlike some folks I thought the more it was a stretch to pronounce the funner it was. Junk = John Q? Made me laugh. I didn't immediately get the U.S. Grant one, but went on to finish the puzzle and forgot to go try again before coming here and seeing the answer. DOH [head slap].

Susan 11:48 AM  

@Rex Yes, Real Genius! The beginning of my life-long crush on Val Kilmer!

Noam D. Elkies 11:54 AM  

@Elaine — yes, these aren't puns, more like charades. In The 27A:ENIGMA they'd be called "phonetic charades", and probably tagged for inexact phonetics ("SAC" = Zach?). [Yes, I'm one of those "puzzle dorks", as are Eric Berlin, Will Shortz (naturally), and many of the A-level ACPT solvers.]

Anyway, I can't complain too much about a Sunday puzzle that I finish in ~15 minutes (less than 75% of my recent average) and contains not just The 27A:ENIGMA but also 5D:PARABOLA and Harvard's previous president 99A:LAWRENCE Summers. I figured out all the charades, but for me they didn't quite cross the line to where they'd be so distorted that they're funny.

Besides the Tchefherssinn 30D:NICKEL there's a few other bonus Presidential clues: the above-noted 99A:LAWRENCE, plus 120A:LIFE, 82D:USN, 86D:AUG, 103D:ABRAM. Besides 48D:APU we also have change of pace for 119A:REA and 104A:ASHE, though I'm not sure that the latter is an improvement (it's not even in the Greater NY area...), especially crossing the random clue for 92D:SLASH.

Thought the "alphabet holder" at 58D might be Vanna, and the A of 80A:SALES didn't help. 57D:D'OH (another Simpsons shoutout).

Why is "Abbr." necessary in the clue for 82A:UKR? "U.S.S.R." should be enough of a hint for that.


John 12:01 PM  

@Meg, An OAT made into a meal is OATMEAL.

The Puzzle was fun, but the phonetics killed me.

jae 12:01 PM  

Yes, easy and enough of a departure from the usual (I've never seen this done before) to be amusing. I liked it. My only real hiccup was WEDDING.

@jesser -- ONEL refers to first year law students ONE Ls. It is sometimes clued as book title by Scott Turow.

Elaine 12:12 PM  

Jim Horne just posted that Tyler Hinman did not make the cut for the finals. Well, it probably had to happen some time, but gee. Hope he keeps coming back.

hmmm captcha is barprof--I have known a couple of those sorts, often found preying on vulnerable grad students...

chefbea 12:15 PM  

Thought the puzzle was great. Was fun figuring out the names.

So glad I made it into the puzzle.

Can't wait to hear the outcome of the tournament

jeff in chicago 12:26 PM  


Noam D. Elkies 12:27 PM  

Forgot to mention: 102A:NIE = what the German knights guarding the Holy Grail say?


retired_chemist 12:34 PM  

Liked it. Nice to have an easy one with fun answers and a cool theme.

@ PIX -
The formula for a parabola was referenced in a comment on Orange's blog. It is not weird, though I did not know the details before either. Turns out p is the focal distance and the line y = -p is called the directrix. Kinda cool

@ Edith B - I think Zack was just trying to comment on the decidedly non-breakfasty thought of being stranded by being ENSILED. Sounds like a scene straight from an agri-horror film.

LAWRENCE Summers (99A) got himself forced out (OK, he resigned, but still...) as Harvard President for a distinctly non-PC slant on women in academic science and math. Other reasons have been hinted at but that is the one that was most widely reported. Perhaps NDE can give us an insider's take.....

Thanks, Mr. Berlin.

Stan 12:57 PM  

These were a s - t - r - e - t - c - h, but plenty of fun.

@Eric: I read the 'Horse's Ass' link and I think you are being almost too understanding toward the parent trying to censor your book. But you're in great company with Twain, Salinger, J.K. Rowling, etc.!

Unknown 1:18 PM  

I wouldn't call this one easy - took me more than 2x as long as last week's. I started solving from the SW up, and didn't get to the "Nickel" answer that gave away the theme until late, by which time I was pretty annoyed...

Steve J 1:22 PM  

Didn't like. I get the cleverness of the scheme, but it had zero appeal for me. Others have already noted most of the issues with the theme. But the Thomas Jefferson one was the worst, imo. One, "Dumbest" and "Thomas" sound nothing alike. Two, using "dumbest" in connection with Thomas Jefferson is just, well, dumb. I know the individual words are in no way to be taken literally and supply only phonological components, but it still seems really off.

Also didn't like the bonus presidential clue/answer combo: Since FDR was abbreviated, I figured his mom needed to be, too, but SADA (Sara Ann Delano Roosevelt) left me with RSH, which made no sense. I don't get why the convention of abbreviation in clue means abbreviation in answer wasn't followed here. Strikes me as sloppy, since Franklin Roosevelt obviously wouldn't have created a clue that didn't fit on the page or anything.

I had a mini-Natick at ASL/APU. The sign language connection just wasn't working (I was scanning my memory for old posters, logos, etc.), and I've never heard of the trilogy or author.

And I really, really wish ALER and NLER would be sacrificed on the altar of Ooxteplernon so they could never, ever return.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Hey @zack, @OldCarFudd and others, I didn't like today's puzzle either. It was pretty easy and I finished it just to finish it which gives me plenty of time to gnaw on Friday and Saturday's which have barely any answers. It's been pretty hard to "gnaw" when I've been trying to watch tennis in the morning and the Olympics in the evening--at least that's my feeble excuse. In truth, Fridays and Saturdays are never easy. Go USA and everyone else in Vancouver.

Alice in SF 1:37 PM  

Anonymous at 1:35--I'm not; just forgot to put in my name.

JayWalker 1:50 PM  

Don't have much to add or say about this puzzle. A walk in the park as compared to yesterdays puzzle, which killed me. My favorite part was reading the essay that Eric Berlin wrote about his book being threatened with banishment. I am very liberal, so my first reaction was real anger against the over-reacting parent. But then I read all of Mr. Berlin's commentary. What a beautifully thought-out, reasoned, unemotional, logical response. Bless you Mr. Berlin. My outrage stayed, but my anger went away. It had to in the face of your fair assessment of the situation. Good for you.

OldCarFudd 1:54 PM  

@elaine@susan - You're right. I misspoke (mistyped?) They're not puns. They're just ugly.

Best real pun I ever saw showed up recently on the NYT web site - a contest, if I remember correctly. It was about Ghandi. He was a very holy man, wandered all over India barefoot, didn't get to eat very much in the way of real food, but ate a lot of pungent Indian spices so he wouldn't feel the hunger. All of which made him a

super-calloused fragile mystic vexed with halitosis.

You may groan now.

Elaine 1:58 PM  

Dan Feyer has won the ACPT!

@Steve J
FDR, LBJ-- those are presidents that we just refer to by their initials, for whatever reason. I see that your protest is certainly legitimate, but somehow doesn't take into account the reality. If they had said, "Franklin's mother," we'd all be cudgeling our brains for Ben Franklin's mom's name. (I don't even think it was in his autobiography, though to be honest I read it in 8th grade and don't recall very much of it.) But I digress.

I didn't realize that "Horse's Ass" was a link. I just thought Rexie was having a little fun....

See you guys tomorrow...

PIX 2:24 PM  

@RetiredChemist: OK, I withdraw the word "weird" as describing xsquared=4py for a parabola and replace it with the phrase: " a very esoteric formula unlikely to be known by anyone outside the field of mathematics"...seems rather advanced for a puzzle which most people are ranking as very easy...still looks very suspiciously like someone unfamiliar with math looked up a formula for a parabola and grabbed the first formula they saw.

Craig Richard Nelson 2:36 PM  

I was just so happy to see McSorley's and now I'm jonesing for some of their Porter and chili~

Rube 3:03 PM  

I have trouble with the crossing of an obscure county in NW NC with an obscure character in an RPG, to whit, ASHE/SLASH. Guessed the obvious A, but...?

All I could think of for the fist clue was the Symbionese Liberation Army, (SLA). Black Panthers came to mind also, but no known abbreviation there. So used my only Google to get APU, (had Raj for a minute), to get ASL... (Who were these guys?) Came here to find out what ASL was and was about to ask when I Googled it and found American Sign Language. In retrospect, I'd use the N word here too, if I felt qualified.

Did love the new word ENISLE. Wll have to use it the next time I feel alone in a crowd. "Say Sweety, I feel like I'm being ENISLEd. Let's go somewhere quiet, away from these ENISLErs."

I too thought the "phonetic charades", and the puzzle, were enjoyable.

HudsonHawk 3:05 PM  

Just back from Brooklyn--I hate the tie-breaker system. I didn't like it last year when Dan was excluded, either.

Tyler missed out on defending his title because he tied for 3rd with Anne Erdmann. Since they had identical scores on the last five puzzles, the tie-breaker was puzzle number 2, which Anne finished a minute faster than Tyler. Really splitting hairs. Put up a fourth board.

Anyway, Dan was amazing and deserved the win. Jan O'Sullivan, the CT woman whom I mentioned in my earlier comment, ended up exactly in Rex's spot of #44. At least as of 3 p.m.

PlantieBea 3:31 PM  

Thanks for the tournament updates and congrats to Dan Feyer.

The puzzle--I didn't care for it. Maybe it would have been more interesting it if it had contained puns, like OldCarFudd's Ghandi groaner. As it was, it felt like more of a slog.

Ulrich 4:11 PM  

@HudsonHawks: First, congratulations on your performance! I totally agree with you w.r.t. the tie break rule--what's wrong with a 4th board?

I was also impressed that our (former?) friend Joon, who won in Westport last year, won the B division--as a rookie, to boot!

Glitch 4:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glitch 4:53 PM  


ENISLE makes it's 18 appearence in the NYT's puzzle. Although mostly a Sat/Sun performer, it has appeared every day of the except Tuesday, mostly in the role of "Isolate".

It's most unusual performance was Saturday, 9/17/05, as "stick on a key?"


dk 5:31 PM  

Much laughter in the dk household as I tried to figure out who the PRESIDENT was by speaking the fill aloud.

Fun puzzle

**** (4 Stars) A laugh RIOT

Congratulations to Dan and the other puzzle pals who are competing.

I come in to check the standings (removing ice dams today) every few hours. New neighbor (working on his dams) asks: Heh, heh checking on those (pronounced dooz) Olympics? I reply: No man the ACPT! I respond to his confused expression by explaining, x-word solving, this blog and the tournament. His response: Whata ya some kind of Phd? I reply: Why yes! Neighbor goes inside for a beer muttering. I think I will give him one of my Barbie photos... ya know to welcome him to dah hood and all.

secret word: devition

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

Geez you would think the ACPT would add a fourth board, or at least have a tiebreaker puzzle handy. A pretty lousy way to miss out on the finals, but congratulations to Dan and everyone else!

HudsonHawk 6:09 PM  

@anonymous 5:41. In fact, they have nine boards. All they'd need to do is thoroughly erase one used in the B or C finals (the grids are identical). Last year was even worse, since there was actually a four-way tie for 1st, but Dan was eliminated on the tie-breaker rule.

Ulrich 6:21 PM  

This goes beyond the merit of the the tiebreaker rule: I am really fascinated by the scores achieved by the top competitors--for the majority of cases, they are exactly the same; i.e. the solvers finished within the same minute (seconds are "thrown away"). For example, in puzzle 1, the top 2 and 4-6 have the same score; for puzzle 2, the top 3 are the same and then the next three with a lower score; for puzzles 3 and 4, the top 5 have the same score; puzzle 5, the tough one, gave Dan the opportunity to separate himself from the pack by 2 minutes; but with puzzle 6, we return to the pattern--the top 9 have the same score; in puzzle 7, no's 2-5 are the same and a minute better than Dan, who's matched by no's 6-8.

This suggests to me that there is a real link between the level of difficulty of a puzzle and the time needed to solve it "at the limit of human cognition" or, for the easier puzzles perhaps, at the limit of human writing speed--and that's why every second matters if you want to get into the playoffs--one second more and you may break into the next minute and lose 25 points...

JenCT 6:27 PM  

Just got back from the ACPT - 1st time competing! A fun time, and a trip that I recommend for all.

Rex, it was a pleasure to meet you at the tournament. Really enjoy your blog.

Too tired to do today's puzzle. Congrats to the winners! And, might I add, very nice to see a woman on the stage for the final puzzle.

slypett 6:35 PM  

OldCarFudd: Ghandi's laughing.

Rex Parker 6:38 PM  

I'm on a bus! (sung to the tune of "I'm on a Boat!")

Unknown 7:17 PM  

This was fun to do, mainly because it's the first time I've ever finished a Sunday crossword...and I've never even finished a Thursday-Saturday one before!

Jeffrey 8:23 PM  

Help! I'm still at the hotel in Brooklyn!

(ok my plane leaves Monday)

Re the tiebreak/same scores issue, there was some talk that they should move to one-half minute timing.

Crosscan, the Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver in the Universe!*

*excluding the USA

Anonymous 8:40 PM  

Agree with everyone on the stupid and unfair tiebreaker rule.
How would Dan have finished last year? How would Tyler have done against Dan today? We'll never know...thanks to an idiot rule.

Ted Michon 9:07 PM  

Rex, Love your blog. I was wondering if you would consider listing your time to complete. I do the puzzle on the iPhone app, and I am sick of comparing myself to cheaters (people who claim to do the Sunday puzzle in 4 minutes). It would be a nice feature to an already great blog.

Thanks, Ted

HudsonHawk 9:32 PM  

@Crosscan, awesome international ranking, as usual! Actually, just plain awesome, by any measure.

@Rex, I'm on a sofa! Thanks again to you and Sandy for hosting the Friday night festivities, to Ashish for supplying the awesome bottles of wine and PhillySolver for the antipasto. Hope Sandy is feeling better.

To those of you who haven't attended, it really is a great time. I'm not sure about competing next year, since it coincides with the first weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament (yeah, college hoops is a big deal for me, just like the wrestling nationals are a big deal for PuzzleGirl--same weekend next year). Nevertheless, it's a short subway ride away, so I hope to socialize if I don't compete.

mac 11:04 PM  

Can't believe I did this puzzle, plus Paula Gamache's, after I got back to CT this afternoon.... I was wondering if I was going to stay away from them for a while after the overindulgence in Brooklyn, but when I talked to my husband this morning I couldn't help myself, I asked him to save the Saturday puzzle....

I'm claiming Foodie's excuse as well. Had to laugh when I figured the first one out, though, and the fill was mostly good. Plus Peter Berlin was great at the tournament!

Congratulations to @Crosscan and @Orange for their outstanding results. @imsdave, @Karen from the Cape (and her mother) were in the 100's, an outstanding result, and Nanpilla and her sister and PuzzleGirl were right behind them. As for me, well, I just looked it up and I'm 42 places higher than last year.

I'm very happy for Dan Feyer and his meteoric rise in the last 2 years. He is a great guy.
The most amazing thing was that our own @Bob Kerfuffle, whom we got to know quite well over the last couple of days, was a rookie and ended up in the 217th place overall! Great to meet him!

It was nice to return to CT where MacHusband had planned dinner and even cooked it. Life is good.

Ben 11:11 PM  

I was one of those who prevented Rex from blogging in the lounge on Saturday night. Thanks for the glimpse behind the scenes of CrossWorld, sir. As a fellow blogger and frequent reader I found it most interesting.

Also, as @HudsonHawk said, thanks to you and Sandy for letting us all descend on your suite, to all who brought food and drink, and to @PuzzleGirl for the official invite. The excellent company made the pre-tourney sleep deprivation worth it!

@IMSDave (and your friend whose screen name I didn't quite catch), @Bob Kerfuffle, et al., nice to put faces to the names.

Great meeting or seeing everyone who made it to Brooklyn. If you're thinking about going next year, just do it. Two days of nonstop enjoyment, puzzle-wise and otherwise. Sartre said "Hell is other people" but the ACPT proves that Heaven can be as well.

fikink 11:14 PM  

Congratulations, Dan!

@retired chemist, "ensiled: an agri-horror film" LOL! Reminds me of our death-by-silo conversation months ago.

@mac, congrats on your performance and thank you for the sentiment.
Indeed, life is good and Spring is on its way!

Eric Berlin wrote: "Here is my message to parents who want to remove Winston Breen or any book from their local library: No book could possibly match you as the most important influence in your child’s life."
Amen, Eric.

Ben 11:14 PM  

@Mac, sorry to omit your name there. Congrats on the ranking jump.

Speaking of results, I made my maiden voyage in 2009 and finished 160th. I returned this year and again finished 160th!

treedweller 11:15 PM  

I am not surprised to see the complaints about the phonetic presidents (and the tenuous hold they have on that adjective), but I enjoyed them. In fact, I preferred Eric Berlin's puzzle to Reagle's contest effort, though it was fun, as well.

I finished in 198th place. I had hoped to get 7 correct solutions and failed, but I came much closer to finishing #5 this year and improved my rank by around five percent, so that's progress. Ellen Ripstein happened to be sitting behind me during the finals, which made for some interesting commentary. Great to finally meet some rexites in person. I will have to decide about next year when it gets a bit closer, but I will hope to see you all again (and meet more of you) next year.

Congrats to the winners!

andrea robinson michaels 11:29 PM  

one of about a bazillion highlights:
introduced caleb madison to natan last while jonah kagan looked on and realized I was probably older than their combined ages!

let us not forget who was sitting between you and Dan at that fateful luncheon... who knew? Nein doch

treedweller 11:30 PM  

and I only just finished BEQ's puzzle 5, after googling and a lot more blank staring and hair pulling. Anyway, I think I figured it out.

Stan 11:45 PM  

All you who attended, and/or blogged it: Thanks so much!

Anonymous 4:20 AM  

@chefbea, stan

The Saturday Stumper from Creators Syndicate says BEET is 'member of the amaranth family.'
Do you think that is so? I couldn't find it even on Google.

JenCT 5:45 AM  

@Anonymous: BEET in in the amaranth family - check out Wikipedia.

deerfencer 12:14 PM  

I found this puzzle kind of fun at first--until it became apparent the "creative" presidential pronunciations were both random and fairly senseless. In the end this one left a bad taste and fell short of my perception of NYT crossword standards. Simple goofiness doesn't cut it

xyz 10:17 PM  

Very late to do this puzzle. Very fun, fairly easy for a Sunday (I tend to lose interest in the large puzzles) but I had a Natick at 78D, 82A, 82D and 94A.

UKR, ENISLE, USN (was thinking Atomic Energy things...) and did not know SKEIN either.

Oh well, once I had the theme, those were easy as pie as phoenetics are a slam dunk for me.

silvergirl 1:40 AM  

Real Genius!

Oh, Rexy. i knew i liked you.

(personally i found the Ulysses S. Grant homophone extremely awkward. His name is pronounced with the final 's', yes? Boo.)

WVW: "ferio", as in: this puzzle was ferio nigh ying.

xyz 5:57 PM  

Thought about it

This puzzle is a form of verbal rebus. How?

In the 1960's the TV game Concentration - Merv Griffin (D-OH) had a grid where you had to match pairs by remembering where they were and with each matching pair reveal, part of a TRUE rebus was revealed.

e.g. supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was shown as pictures (the TRUE rebus)

Super Cow + A + fragile lipstick + X + pea + alley + dough + shush

(a cow in a cape) + (letter A) + (Box of wine glasses marked with a breakable sign) + (lipstick picture) + X + (pea in a pod) + (picture of an alley) + (a wad of cash - DOUGH) + (picture of a finger in front of lips and SHHH)

captcha horml in honor of SPAM, I guess, for a hammy puzzle

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