Kamis, 31 Maret 2011

03.31 Thu

March 31, 2011
Steve Salitan

Theme: The Boys of Summer! — It's a baseball theme for opening day.

Theme answers:

  • 1A: *One way to reach a superhero (BAT PHONE).
  • 23A: *2008 Republican hopeful (MITT ROMNEY).
  • 34A: *Roll-fed toy (CAP PISTOL).
  • 46A: *Musical about rock's 4 Seasons (JERSEY BOYS).
  • 62A: Its season starts today; its equipment starts the starred answers (BASEBALL).

Very uneven solve for me today. Love the theme. I'm only a casual sports fan, so I don't always know when opening day is but my new boss — a huge baseball fan — took the day off today to go see our Nats, so I was aware this year. As for the theme answers, one made me chuckle, one made me smile, one made me groan, and the one right in the middle gave me a lot of trouble. For some reason, I always want to spell SCADS with a K (31D: Carloads). I also had had TIE ONTO where TIE INTO was supposed to go (25D: Link with). I was waiting to see whether 28D would be STNS or (the correct) STAS (28D: Coming and going spots: Abbr.). But I was pretty sure it was going to be an N after that K, so CAP PISTOL was looking like KNPPOSTOL and that ... took me a while to sort out.

Lots of prepositions and other weird partials in the grid today: AGREED ON right next to ON SALE, SEEN AS, IN UP, TIE INTO. And then there are the several downright clunkers: NOA, LOPER, and NUS (7D: Tishby of "The Island" / 9D: Horse warming up, say / 42D: Sorority letters). But then there's quite a bit of good stuff too, like the triple stack of 7s in the northeast corner:
  • 12D: Chemical bonding number (VALENCE).
  • 13D: Winning numbers (ELEVENS).
  • 14D: Flights that often span two days (REDEYES).
Sure those three words are full of Wheel of Fortune letters, but the Vs just spice it right up for me. There are a few other entries that I like for one reason or another, so let's go to the bullets.

  • 27A: Focus of some trips (EGO). Nice clue.
  • 30A: Explain (CONSTRUE). I do not think this word means what I think it means.
  • 36A: Fertilizer component (POTASH). I like to pronounce this word like POE-TASH and for some reason I crack myself up whenever I do that.
  • 39A: "I can't explain it" ("NO REASON"). I typically like answers clued as spoken expressions. Even better when they're exclamations like 55D: "Super!" ("FAB!").
  • 53A: "The Executioner's Song" Pulitzer winner (MAILER). For some reason Norman MAILER and Jimmy Breslin are the same person in my brain.
  • 55A: Burlesque act (FAN DANCE).
  • 4D: Stylish waves (PERMS). Stylish?
  • 40D: African plain (SAVANNA).
  • 47D: "The Vampire Diaries" heroine Gilbert (ELENA). I'm a little disappointed ELENA wasn't clued with a reference to SONIA (28A: Justice Sotomayor) but that's probably just me. Also, the Twilight series is about as deep as I'm going to get into the vampire genre so I was out of luck here.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 43A: Imitated (APED).
  • 44A: Old 51-Across devices (ETNAS).
  • 45A: "The Simpsons" shopkeeper (APU).
  • 52A: Jai __ (ALAI).
  • 8D: Head M.D.? (ENT).
  • 28D: Coming and going spots: Abbr. (STAS.).
  • 54D: Quarterback Dawson (LEN).
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Everything Else 9A: Blind slat (LOUVER); 15A: Concurred about (AGREED ON); 16A: Lower, for now (ON SALE); 17A: Ogled (LEERED AT); 18A: Skinned (PEELED); 19A: One of two O.T. books (SAML.); 20A: When Donne is done for the day? (E'EN); 21A: Genesis outcast (EVE); 22A: Go by (PASS); 29A: Unsatisfactory marks? (ACNE); 32A: Fiona, after Shrek's kiss (OGRESS); 49A: Benjamin et al.: Abbr. (PVTS.); 50A: Give pieces to (ARM); 51A: Trial site, perhaps (LAB); 59A: Show up (ATTEND); 60A: Some feelers (ANTENNAE); 61A: Viewed to be (SEEN AS); 1D: __ masqué: dance with costumes (BAL); 2D: A good while back (AGES AGO); 3D: Crime of betrayal (TREASON); 5D: Cad (HEEL); 6D: "How peculiar" ("ODD"); 10D: Bridge opener, briefly (ONE NO); 11D: Take for a chump (USE); 22D: Chest ripple (PEC); 23D: Transform eerily, in sci-fi (MORPH); 24D: __ to one's neck (IN UP); 25D: Link with (TIE INTO); 26D: Donald's second ex (MARLA); 32D: Others, in Oaxaca (OTRAS); 33D: Proceeds (GOES); 35D: Sharp competitor (SONY); 36D: Hefner garb (PAJAMAS); 37D: Work (OPERATE); 38D: Unhappy home inspection find (TERMITE); 41D: Like some film effects (OPTICAL); 44D: Flow back (EBB); 48D: Play places (YARDS); 49D: Secondary strategy (PLAN B); 52D: Chick chaser? (-ADEE); 56D: Actress Gasteyer (ANA); 57D: Some Windows systems (NT'S); 58D: Epitome of slipperiness (EEL).

Rabu, 30 Maret 2011

03.30 Wed

March 30, 2011
James Sajdak

Theme: L.A. Law — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases where each word begins with the letters LA.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Whip-cracking cowboy of old films (LASH LARUE).
  • 21A: Ethel, to Lucy (LAND LADY).
  • 35A: Sky blue (LAPIS LAZULI).
  • 51A: Wax-filled illumination (LAVA LAMP).
  • 56A: Victor's chuckle (LAST LAUGH).
  • 29D: '80s-'90s legal drama, and this puzzle's title (L.A. LAW).
Seems like we're off to a good start this week. Today we have another well-executed cute theme that's pretty much exactly the difficulty level it needs to be for the day. I noticed quite a bit of crosswordese in the grid, so let's get that out of the way first. If you click on a link in this list, you'll be transported back in time to the first time we covered that particular crosswordese word. You might find some good information there, so check it out if you're interested.

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 20A: Venetian arch shape (OGEE).
  • 64A: Prince Valiant's son (ARN).
  • 13D: DDE predecessor (HST).
  • 33D: To be, to Brutus (ESSE).
  • 37D: Pitts of "The Gale Storm Show" (ZASU).
  • 52D: Banned orchard spray (ALAR).
My sparkly answers of the day include:
  • 23A: Canyon-crossing transport (TRAMWAY).
  • 28A: Hong Kong harbor craft (SAMPAN).
  • 11D: Persian Gulf emirate (ABU DHABI).
That last one is pretty fun to say. Just say it out loud a couple times. See?

I had one of those days yesterday where it just felt like I was treading water all day and today is looking like it might be a long one too, so let's jump straight to bullets.

  • 14A: Vietnam Veterans Memorial architect (LIN). Can't say enough about this awesome memorial. If you're ever in the DC area, it's definitely worth a look. I actually went downtown yesterday to see the cherry blossoms. Here's a picture of the Jefferson Memorial.
  • 16A: Local cinemas, colloquially (NABES). I remember this word creating quite a stir over at Rex's place quite a while back. I guess it's a common term for people whose jobs entail film distribution and it might have been more widely used back in the day. Me? I learned it from a crossword puzzle.
  • 29A: Field for the fold (LEA). Where, as you know, the animals might say either BAA or MOO.
  • 34A: Sign before Scorpio (LIBRA). I think one of my kids might be a LIBRA. No wait, that's October, isn't it? I used to know all that zodiac mumbo-jumbo, but I sure don't any more. Plus I heard they changed it all recently so, honestly, who can keep up? (Not really sure who "they" are, but that's what I heard.)
  • 43A: Titan is its largest moon (SATURN). I actually remembered this from all the times TITAN has been in the grid clued as Saturn's largest moon.
  • 55A: Artist's topper (BERET).
  • 24D: Mud nest builders (WASPS). With the W in place, I first tried WRENS which is … pretty dumb.
  • 27D: It surrounds Lesotho: Abbr. (RSA.). Ooh, ouch. We've found our clunker of the day.
  • 55D: Setting for many a joke (BAR). Love this. I have a hard time remembering jokes well enough to actually tell them, but even the phrase "So a guy walks into a bar…" makes me giggle.
  • 58D: Majors in acting (LEE). PuzzleSon was sitting here a minute ago and asked me what this clue/answer pair meant. I explained it to him and thought this might be my chance to get him hooked on crosswords, but when I offered to teach him more crossword solving tricks he just groaned. Sigh.
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Everything Else 1A: Beginning for the birds? (AVI-); 4A: Shaq on the court (O'NEAL); 9A: Beat __ to one's door (A PATH); 15A: Ramadi resident (IRAQI); 19A: Weight room sound (GRUNT); 26A: Fridge raider (NOSHER); 31A: Remote power sources? (AAA'S); 32A: Thing to blow off (STEAM); 38A: Postgrad hurdle (ORALS); 40A: "Cosmos" host (SAGAN); 41A: Lotto relative (KENO); 42A: Assure, with "up" (SEW); 48A: Most foxy (SLYEST); 50A: Landmass encompassing the Urals (EURASIA); 54A: Bombast (RANT); 59A: Conductor Previn (ANDRE); 60A: Came up (AROSE); 61A: Sargasso or Coral (SEA); 62A: Parks and others (ROSAS); 63A: Zellweger of "Chicago" (RENEE); 1D: Doles out (ALLOTS); 2D: Cialis competitor (VIAGRA); 3D: Tailor's measure (INSEAM); 4D: Van Gogh work (OIL); 5D: Gun lobby org. (NRA); 6D: Ahead of time (EARLY); 7D: Shade in the Caribbean (AQUA); 8D: Bank holding (LIEN); 9D: Saxon start (ANGLO); 10D: Chute above the beach (PARASAIL); 12D: Like some mortgages (TEN-YEAR); 18D: Rope fiber (HEMP); 22D: Paternity proof, briefly (DNA); 25D: Naysayer (ANTI); 30D: The Daily Beast, e.g. (E-MAG); 34D: Like the Islamic calendar (LUNAR); 35D: Refs' whistle holders (LANYARDS); 36D: Natural burn balm (ALOE VERA); 38D: Signs off on (OK'S); 39D: Chile __: stuffed Mexican dish (RELLENO); 42D: N.L. team managed by Tony La Russa since 1996 (STL); 44D: Scarlett's home (TARA); 45D: World Cup chant (USA USA); 46D: Horseshoes feat (RINGER); 47D: Revolutionary Hale (NATHAN); 49D: Fully fills (SATES); 50D: Hewlett-Packard rival (EPSON); 53D: Full-grown filly (MARE); 57D: Taoist Lao-__ (TSE).

Selasa, 29 Maret 2011

03.29 Tue

March 29, 2011
Joon Pahk & Andrea Carla Michaels

Theme: Pack It In — The first word of each theme answer can be a type of "pack." And there are six of them! Get it? Six-pack!

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Completely dark (JET BLACK).
  • 21A: Getting-to-know-you party activity (ICE BREAKER).
  • 26A: Dirty fighting? (MUD WRESTLING).
  • 39A: Wearisome routine (RAT RACE).
  • 47A: "Wow, she's good-looking!" sounds (WOLF WHISTLES).
  • 58A: "Funny Girl" leading role (FANNY BRICE).
  • 66A: Some sculpted abs ... and what the starts of 17-, 21-, 26-, 39-, 47- and 58-Across are altogether? (SIX PACKS).
I had heard Joon and Andrea had a puzzle coming out and must admit my expectations were pretty high. Thank goodness they didn't disappoint! Seven theme answers. That's incredible! You'd think with that many theme answers they would have to resort to a funny-looking grid. Oh wait, it is a funny-looking grid. But that's okay. There's actually nothing wrong with a funny-looking grid. What you really hate to see is when high theme density necessitates crap fill. And while I can't say the grid is completely crap-free, it's pretty darn clean considering. In fact, the only entries that really jumped out at me as clunkers were RARES (29D: Filet mignon requests) and the Random Roman Numeral MCCC (6D: Cornerstone 1300). Other than that, I dare say Joon and Andrea were able to sneak in several entries that are a little on the hard side for a Tuesday, but because they have solid crosses I'm definitely not going to complain. All in all, a great Tuesday puzzle.

It's fun to solve a puzzle by someone you know and see their personality in it. These are the entries that screamed ANDREA at me:
  • 10D: Its anthem is "Hatikvah" (ISRAEL).
  • 24D: Music to a cat lover's ears (PURR).
  • 62D: Giovanni's good-bye (CIAO).
As for Joon, well, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that BLOOP (23A: Soft baseball hit) is all his.

  • 1A: Lea low (MOO). I got off to a horrible start right here at 1-Across where I plopped in BAA without even thinking. Oops!
  • 16A: Sci-fi author __ K. Le Guin (URSULA). Ya know how I've told you about how writing this blog sometimes throws me off onto tangents sometimes for hours? Usually it's YouTube that does it, but this time I went off on a search for a former college professor who got me interested in women's literature, including URUSLA K. Le Guin.
  • 33A: "Weeds" airer, in TV listings (SHO). Weren't we just talking about this show? It's awesome. And the woman who played the school guidance counselor in some of the earlier episodes is a friend of Andrea's. I can't remember her name and I can't find her on imbd. I want to say her name is Amy, but I'm having no luck confirming.
  • 45A: "Zounds!" ("EGAD!"). Does this make anyone else think of Scooby-Doo?
  • 65A: Orbital extreme (APOGEE). I came across this word last week reading about the whole Super Moon thing, which I don't really understand, but I think it's just because I didn't really focus while I was reading.
  • 2D: Nancy who's slated to replace Mary Hart on "Entertainment Tonight" (O'DELL). O'DELL said she is "honored to be the one to fill a TV legend's seat." I'm going to refrain from saying something mean here.
  • 11D: Wagnalls's partner (FUNK). I knew these two names went together, but I had to look them up just now to remember that Funk & Wagnalls is a publisher of reference books.
  • 13D: 1980-81 Iranian president Bani-__ (SADR). Um … what?
  • 41D: Berkeley school, familiarly (CAL). We often see references to college nicknames that are just so wrong. It's nice to see a good one today.
  • 50D: __ corpus (HABEAS). Had a little spelling issue here.
  • 55D: Bologna ball game (BOCCE). Raise your hand if you pictured lunchmeat being batted into the air.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 20A: It's not butter (OLEO).
  • 43A: Expressive rock genre (EMO).
  • 53A: Wrath, in a classic hymn (IRAE).
  • 69A: Depilatory brand (NAIR).
  • 73A: Tolkien tree creature (ENT).
  • 35D: Stone for many Libras (OPAL).
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Everything Else 4A: Rocket interceptors, briefly (ABM'S); 8A: Doesn't tip (STIFFS); 14A: DJ's array (CD'S); 15A: Atahualpa, notably (INCA); 19A: Took an intersecting road (TURNED); 25A: Facility (EASE); 36A: Latvian capital (RIGA); 37A: Eastern principle (TAO); 38A: Liven (up) (PEP); 44A: __ of Good Feelings (ERA); 46A: Old boys? (MEN); 54A: Fat cat (NABOB); 64A: Quayle's successor (GORE); 68A: Mother with a Nobel prize (TERESA); 70A: AFL partner (CIO); 71A: Turns over, as an engine (STARTS); 72A: Film pooch in a tornado (TOTO); 1D: Low-paying position (MCJOB); 3D: Bone: Pref. (OSTEO-); 4D: Have a bug (AIL); 5D: __ B'rith (B'NAI); 7D: Benefit (SAKE); 8D: Hindu aphorisms (SUTRAS); 9D: Most loyal (TRUEST); 12D: Make a run for it (FLEE); 18D: Bust's opposite (BOOM); 22D: Spelling contest (BEE); 27D: Day in Durango (DIA); 28D: Lb. or oz. (WGT.); 30D: Couple in People (ITEM); 31D: Tom, Dick or Harry (NAME); 32D: Continue (GO ON); 33D: Eject, as lava (SPEW); 34D: Medal recipient (HERO); 40D: Rep. with a cut (AGT.); 42D: First lady's home? (EDEN); 48D: Identify, as a perp (FINGER); 49D: Most ironic (WRYEST); 51D: Suffix with hotel (-IER); 52D: "Beowulf" or "Star Wars" (SAGA); 56D: Pest control name (ORKIN); 57D: Stupefy with drink (BESOT); 58D: Pool legend Minnesota __ (FATS); 59D: In __: peeved (A PET); 60D: Director Ephron (NORA); 61D: Fails to be (ISN'T); 63D: Stage direction (EXIT); 67D: Tour golfer (PRO).

Senin, 28 Maret 2011

03.28 Mon

March 28, 2011
Gail Grabowski & Bruce Venzke

Theme: Greatest Hits — Each theme answer is a familiar phrase ending with a word that can be a synonym for "hit."

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Tool that can extract nails (CLAW HAMMER).
  • 27A: It's poured into an iron at breakfast (WAFFLE BATTER).
  • 47A: United Kingdom currency (BRITISH POUND).
  • li>64A: Fur bartered by Native Americans (BEAVER PELT).
Looks like we're starting out the week with a simple (if violent) Monday theme in a smooth Monday grid. Nice! Lots of exclaiming going on in this puzzle:
  • 45A: "Without a doubt!" ("SURE!").
  • 68A: "I did it!" ("TA-DA!").
  • 33D: Charlie Brown's "Darn it!" ("RATS!").
Seems like someone was talked into doing a magic trick and it didn't quite come off as well as expected. Ha!

  • 5A: Fallback option (PLAN B). For some reason, the word "fallback" made me think of changing clocks for Daylight Savings Time and I couldn't think of anything else.
  • 22A: "Get Smart" evil agency (KAOS). Although "Get Smart" was a little before my time, it was enough of a cultural phenomenon that I've always known some things about it (Agent 99, the shoe phone, some of the catchphrases like "Would you believe…?"), I would not have remembered the name of the evil agency, however, if it weren't for crossword puzzles.
  • 25A: Bard of boxing (ALI). "If you were surprised when Nixon resigned, just watch what happens when I whup Foreman's behind!"
  • 34A: They may be outsourced (JOBS). Well that's depressing.
  • 40A: Aerialist's apparatus (TRAPEZE). Have you all seen "Man on a Wire"? I've only seen parts of it so far, but am looking forward to sitting down and watching it straight through.
  • 63A: Length times width (AREA). And here we have a nice, noncontroversial clue for AREA.
  • 2D: Golden St. collegian (UCLAN). Ooh, that's ugly. I tried BRUIN first, which wouldn't have been ugly at all.
  • 6D: Moussaka meat (LAMB). I tried VEAL here. I guess I got my poor defenseless baby animals confused.
  • 11D: Swedish furniture giant (IKEA). Did I tell you we're moving next month? Just to another house in the same area. It's quite a bit smaller than the house we're in now, though, and we will definitely be making a trip to IKEA. (Yay!)
  • 35D: Sign of spoilage (ODOR). Ew.
  • 41D: Olympian ruler (ZEUS). PuzzleDaughter's friend just got a puppy and they named it ZEUS. The girls insist on calling him ZEUSY, though, which sounds pretty funny.
  • 56D: "Tears in Heaven" singer Clapton (ERIC). I would love to find you a clip right now, but if I click over to YouTube, I'll be stuck there for at least an hour and I just don't have that kind of time this morning. So please go enjoy some Clapton on your own.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up:
  • 46A: Mars' Greek counterpart (ARES).
  • 31D: Russian ruler of yore (TSAR).
  • 32D: To be, in Burgundy (ÊTRE).
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Everything Else 1A: Muddy stuff (MUCK); 10A: Pinochle calls (BIDS); 14A: Bounce, as off a canyon wall (ECHO); 15A: Margaret Mead's island (SAMOA); 16A: Tom Joad, for one (OKIE); 19A: Princess played by Lucy Lawless (XENA); 20A: Spanish song (CANTO); 21A: Surprise "from the blue" (BOLT); 23A: Silky sweater (ANGORA); 37A: King with jokes (ALAN); 38A: Keebler cracker (ZESTA); 39A: Oral health org. (ADA); 42A: Pictures on the wall (ART); 43A: Back biter? (MOLAR); 50A: Heavy drinker (SOT); 51A: Tranquilize (SEDATE); 55A: Plastic user's concern (DEBT); 58A: Words of woe (AH ME); 62A: Autobahn autos (AUDIS); 66A: Highlands dagger (DIRK); 67A: "Bye for now" ("LATER"); 69A: High school skin problem (ACNE); 70A: Idyllic spots (EDENS); 71A: Sources of iron (ORES); 1D: Tourist magnet (MECCA); 3D: P.F. __'s: Chinese restaurant chain (CHANG); 4D: Shows servility (KOW-TOWS); 5D: Free TV spot (PSA); 7D: Bullets and such (AMMO); 8D: Seasonal song (NOEL); 9D: Pub bill (BAR TAB); 10D: Tailless flying toy (BOX KITE); 12D: Flintstone pet (DINO); 13D: Aral and Arabian (SEAS); 18D: Traditional round dance (HORA); 24D: Miles away (AFAR); 26D: Act like a couch potato (LAZE); 28D: Lightning burst (FLASH); 29D: Drink à la Lassie (LAP UP); 30D: Juan's January (ENERO); 34D: Doorway feature (JAMB); 36D: Java neighbor (BALI); 40D: Small jazz group (TRIO); 44D: In jeopardy (AT STAKE); 46D: Total numerically (ADD UP TO); 48D: Pony's place (STABLE); 49D: In the vicinity (NEAR); 52D: "Please be __ and ...": polite request words (A DEAR); 53D: Spanish squiggle (TILDE); 54D: These, in Madrid (ESTAS); 55D: Baby's pop (DADA); 57D: Swiss capital (BERN); 59D: Lettuce purchase (HEAD); 60D: Brisbane buddy (MATE); 61D: Fifty-fifty (EVEN); 65D: Medical drama settings, for short (ER'S).

Minggu, 27 Maret 2011

03.27 Sun

March 27, 2011
Merl Reagle

[Note: This is the puzzle that appears in the Sunday L.A. Times newspaper. If you don't get the paper, you can find the puzzle here. Scroll down to see today's syndicated puzzle.]

Theme: "Seeing the Country" — Country names are hidden in the theme answers.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: "This Old Man" lyric (GIVE A DOG A BONE).
  • 28A: Compliment to the pilot (NICE LANDING).
  • 36A: Long, careful study (THOROUGH ANALYSIS).
  • 55A: Arsonist's cousin (PYROMANIAC).
  • 59A: Amorous greeting (A HUG AND A KISS).
  • 66A: Wellness herb (ECHINACEA).
  • 74A: Chameleon's comment? (I CAN ADAPT).
  • 86A: Unseen indicator (HIDDEN MARKER).
  • 89A: Brezhnev, e.g. (SOVIET NAME).
  • 101A: A trifecta of severe winter weather (SLEET HAIL AND RAIN).
  • 111A: Primary illustration (MAIN DIAGRAM).
  • 123A: Mumps symptoms (and technically, this should be "Great Britain," but how often does one get a chance to put this answer in a puzzle?) (SWOLLEN GLANDS).
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Everything Else 1A: Dress part (HEMLINE); 8A: Introduction to structure (INFRA-); 13A: Beverage with burgers (POP); 16A: Worldwide phenomenon? (WEB); 19A: One who eschews (AVOIDER); 20A: Corrida critters (TOROS); 21A: Away, in a way (ON LEAVE); 25A: Hero worshipper? (LEANDER); 26A: Snow runner (SLED); 27A: Message in a bottle, maybe (SOS); 30A: High trains (ELS); 33A: Loch Ness local (SCOT); 35A: Nick of "Affliction" (NOLTE); 42A: GOP rivals (DEMS); 46A: Fabled flyer (ROC); 47A: Honey lover, in Honduras (OSO); 48A: Marlon's "On the Waterfront" director (ELIA); 49A: "Crime and Punishment" heroine (SONYA); 50A: Behold, to Brutus (ECCE); 52A: Roster of desirables (ALIST); 62A: Son of Rebekah (ESAU); 63A: A Cabinet Dept. (AGR.); 64A: Mournful melody (DIRGE); 65A: Chevalier tune (MIMI); 68A: Utah city (OREM); 71A: Of the kidneys (RENAL); 73A: Extra, for short (ADDL.); 78A: "... some kind of ___?" (A NUT); 80A: Gaucho's rope (REATA); 84A: Slinger's handful (MUD); 85A: Prong (TINE); 92A: Caruso was one (TENOR); 93A: Lose oomph (TIRE); 94A: Start of a college-fund slogan (A MIND); 95A: Other sock, say (MATE); 97A: Skater Babilonia (TAI); 99A: Cycle opening (TRI-); 100A: Blockhead (DOLT); 107A: Horse's tale (OATER); 109A: Ms. Bombeck (ERMA); 110A: Girl in the woods (DOE); 116A: Serengeti denizen (GNU); 118A: Farrow and Hamm (MIAS); 122A: Opens (UNSEALS); 127A: Cause to jump (STARTLE); 128A: Boatman's river (VOLGA); 129A: Sunken (DEEPSET); 130A: Important (KEY); 131A: Priest add-on (-ESS); 132A: "How do you ___?" (PLEAD); 133A: Prayers (ORISONS); 1D: Crones (HAGS); 2D: Not good (EVIL); 3D: Pick up and go or pack up and go (MOVE); 4D: Art songs (LIEDER); 5D: Ms. Lupino (IDA); 6D: Mick Jagger film, "___ Kelly" (NED); 7D: Love god (EROS); 8D: Minnesota lake (ITASCA); 9D: Head, slangily (NOB); 10D: Word with lobe or assault (FRONTAL); 11D: Noodle-___ (RONI); 12D: In ___ (shortly) (A SEC); 13D: Hoi follower (POLLOI); 14D: Shaq et al. (O'NEALS); 15D: Nursery buy (PLANT); 16D: African arroyo (WADI); 17D: Uniform (EVEN); 18D: Ice chunk (BERG); 22D: ___ a positive note (ENDED ON); 24D: Kid's cry (GOSH); 29D: USN rank (ENS.); 31D: UK WC (LOO); 32D: Ill-fated "Seinfeld" fiancee (SUSAN); 34D: Former (ONE-TIME); 36D: Step (TREAD); 37D: ___ Minh (HO CHI); 38D: Come to pass (OCCUR); 39D: Rush quest, often (GOLD); 40D: Gloss targets (LIPS); 41D: Palindromic cheer (YAY); 43D: Early computer (ENIAC); 44D: "At ___?" (senior's query) (MY AGE); 45D: Pelvic bones (SACRA); 49D: Actress Santiago of "Miami Vice" and "The Sopranos" (SAUNDRA); 51D: Encourage (EGG ON); 53D: "___ so sorry!" (I AM); 54D: Sidestep (SKIRT); 56D: Taping abbr. (REC.); 57D: Safety org. (OSHA); 58D: Hotel worker (MAID); 60D: Poked holes in, say (AERATED); 61D: Mideast peninsula (SINAI); 66D: Shake your tail? (ELUDE); 67D: On the qui vive (ALERT); 69D: Make changes in (EDIT); 70D: "Death in Venice" author (MANN); 72D: Wear ___ (AND TEAR); 74D: "When ___, you're a clown" (from "I Got You Babe") (I'M SAD); 75D: Ex-governor Mario (CUOMO); 76D: Ibuprofen brand (ADVIL); 77D: Shooter insert (PEA); 79D: Olympics ideal (TEN); 81D: Dog from Japan (AKITA); 82D: Country star Clark or Gibbs (TERRI); 83D: "The results ___" (ARE IN); 86D: Furnace output (HEAT); 87D: "___ problem" (NOT A); 88D: ___ Mrs. (MR. AND); 90D: Chanter (INTONER); 91D: French Mrs. (MME.); 96D: Reality game show once hosted by Anderson Cooper (THE MOLE); 98D: Promising words (I DO); 101D: Film photos (STILLS); 102D: Some car contracts (LEASES); 103D: Work unit (ERG); 104D: "That makes me happy!" ("I'M GLAD!"); 105D: Daily Planet reporter (LANE); 106D: Charts anew (REMAPS); 108D: On ___ (out with someone) (A DATE); 111D: Ox or rat preceder (MUSK); 112D: Game stake (ANTE); 113D: Brit's sentence starter (I SAY); 114D: Invitation notation (RSVP); 115D: Away sans OK (AWOL); 117D: Loosen, as laces (UNDO); 119D: ___ many words (IN SO); 120D: Mideast gulf (ADEN); 121D: Former flyers (SST'S); 124D: N.Y. airport, on tags (LGA); 125D: Lux. neighbor (GER.); 126D: Island souvenir (LEI).

03.27 Sun

March 27, 2011
Matt Skoczen & Victor Fleming

[Note: This is the syndicated L.A. Times puzzle. It does not appear in the actual newspaper, but is available for free at cruciverb.com.]

Theme: "Rowdy Bunch" — Theme entries in which the first word can follow the word "WILD" to make a familiar word or phrase: wild card, wild cherry, Wild Turkey, wildflower, etc.

Theme Entries:
  • 22A: *Old library aid (CARD CATALOG).
  • 32A: *Soda fountain choice (CHERRY COKE).
  • 97A: *Ragtime dance (TURKEY TROT).
  • 110A: *'60s Haight-Ashbury type (FLOWER CHILD).
  • 3D: *Political mantra (PARTY LINE).
  • 20D: *Drug problem (SIDE EFFECT). 
  • 67D: *One side of a defunct wall (WEST BERLIN). 
  • 76D: *A cappella leader's gadget (PITCH PIPE). 
  • 64A: Maurice Sendak kids' book, and the starts of starred answers (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE).
Hey, everybody. This is Doug, back from Brooklyn and the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I had a fantastic time! If you haven't read PuzzleGirl's ACPT recap yet, what are you waiting for?

OK, today's puzzle is by Matt Skoczen & Victor Fleming. Very impressive construction. Matt and Vic have taken the basic "word that can go before..." theme to another level. First of all, the 21-letter theme revealer, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, is excellent. Second, each theme entry crosses another theme entry, and some of them cross two theme entries! That's not easy to pull off. (I highlighted all the theme entries so you could see how they intersect.) Kudos to today's constructing duo.

  • 19A: Aromatic resin (ELEMI). This is one of those crosswordy words that shows up every now and then, usually clued as "Fragrant resin" or "Varnish ingredient." I wish I had even one interesting thing to say about elemi, but I don't.
  • 24A: Gadget, for one: Abbr. (INSP). "Inspector Gadget" was an cartoon in the mid-'80s. I watched it couple of times. It was pretty bad, but Don Adams did the voice of Inspector Gadget, so I'll give it bonus points for that.
  • 48A: Cockney toast starter ('ERE'S). As in "'ere's to you, 'enry 'iggins!" I've also seen OME clued as "Cockney's abode." I'm not sure how far we can carry this Cockney cluing thing. How about "'uge 'erbivore" for IPPO?
  • 50A: Souvenirs at the park, usually (FOULS). I've never caught a foul ball at the ballpark or been close to anyone who has. Very disappointing. I must be sitting in the wrong sections.
  • 119A: Stieg Larsson was one (SWEDE). The late Stieg Larsson is the author who wrote "The Girl With the Yankees Sweatshirt Who's About to Blow Your Head Off" and other umlaut-laden novels.
  • 9D: 1847 novel based on its author's time in the Society Islands (OMOO). Has anyone actually read this book? I would read it, but I've learned all I need to know about "Omoo" from crossword clues. I feel the same way about the opera/play "Aida."
  • 13D: E-mail option (REPLY ALL). I know you all saw this ad during the Super Bowl, but it's worth another look.
  • 40D: Abecedarian (NEOPHYTE). "Abecedarian" means "one who teaches or studies the alphabet; a beginner." And the word apparently came from the the letters A, B, C, and D. They just strung them together with a couple e's and added "-arian." How cool is that? For some reason, my made-up words never catch on.
  • 101D: Kind of shoes or blues (DRESS). Great clue. At first glance, I thought the answer was SUEDE.
Short write-up today. I'm still tired from last weekend's crossword extravaganza. Have a great week.

Sabtu, 26 Maret 2011

03.26 Sat

March 26, 2011
Julian Lim

Theme: None

Really really enjoyed this puzzle, but I'm getting a late start today, so let's go straight to bullets. No wait, let's do Crosswordese 101 first. These are words that come up in crossword puzzles again and again (and again and again and again) even though they probably don't come up in everyday conversation hardly ever. So it's a good idea to know them. Each CW word in this list is a link that will take you back to the post where we first featured it as CW101, where we talk about what the word means and how it's typically clued. (There's a list of all the CW101 words we've covered so far here.)

Crosswordese 101 Round-up:

  • 19A: Galway Bay's __ Islands (ARAN).
  • 39A: Shrub yielding an indigo dye (ANIL).
  • 61A: Ethyl butyrate, e.g. (ESTER).
  • 4D: Majlis al Jinn cave site (OMAN).
  • 21D: Dashboard Confessional music genre (EMO).
  • 31D: Memorable movie lion (LAHR).
  • 53D: Ohio tribe (ERIE).
  • 1A: Its first mascot was a toque-wearer named Speedee (MCDONALD'S).
  • 10A: Father in the comic strip "Bringing Up Father" (JIGGS). Got this one completely through crosses.
  • 15A: 2010 health statute, informally (OBAMACARE). Timely colloquialism.
  • 29A: Werewolves do it (MORPH).

  • 40A: Dollars for quarters? (HOME LOANS). Tricky clue. "Quarters" in this case refers to "living quarters."
  • 47A: Ham relative (SHEM). Biblical reference: SHEM and Ham are sons of Noah.
  • 49A: Ruined the family photo, maybe (MADE A FACE). Ha!
  • 56A: Potter's concern (VOLDEMORT). Love this clue. Were you all, "Clay? … ???"
  • 59A: Piece maker? (REESE). Mmmmmm, Reese's Pieces.
  • 1D: Home of V. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" (MOMA). The Museum of Modern Art.
  • 3D: "SNL" cast member with Phil and Kevin (DANA). Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, and Dana Carvey. I was never a huge fan of Kevin Nealon, but the one time I was in the audience for SNL, he came out and did the warm-up act and he killed it. I also think he's awesome in "Weeds."
  • 6D: Valuable diamond (ACE). Playing cards.
  • 12D: Fight fiercely (GO TO THE MAT). By any chance did you all hear about the NCAA's 125-pound champion wrestler this year? Kid was born with one leg. This was his last chance for a championship, so even though he beat my Hawkeye (who, by the way, was the defending champ), I have to admit I'm happy for him. Also, the phrase "one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest"? Yeah, we can let that one go now.
  • 45D: Six-time NBA All-Star Stoudemire (AMARE). I thought for sure his first name was more common than that. Is there another Stoudemire?
  • 48D: Annie's student (HELEN). Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.
  • 58D: Feu extinguisher (EAU). French!
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Everything Else 16A: Deify (ADORE); 17A: Beastly place? (MENAGERIE); 18A: Protest tactic (SIT-IN); 20A: Groupings affected by natural selection (GENE POOLS); 22A: Asked for a ticket? (SPED); 24A: Pluck (METTLE); 25A: Leisure wear (LOAFER); 30A: Among other things, in Latin (INTER ALIA); 33A: Iranian-born TV director Badiyi (REZA); 36A: Roll with the punches (TAKE IT AS IT COMES); 41A: 2008 runner (NADER); 44A: Still running (LEFT ON); 45A: Beer named for a river (AMSTEL); 51A: Cooling treats (ICES); 55A: Like a baseball bat's symmetry (AXIAL); 60A: Bizet's "Habanera," for one (OPERA ARIA); 62A: Folded (WENT UNDER); 2D: Handle user (CB'ER); 4D: Majlis al Jinn cave site (OMAN); 5D: Shrew (NAG); 7D: Coffeehouse option (LARGE); 8D: Like some flowers (DRIED); 9D: Detected (SEEN); 10D: "The Eyre Affair" author Fforde (JASPER); 11D: Not at all like rocket science (IDIOT PROOF); 13D: Cook, in a way (GRILL); 14D: Meaning (SENSE); 22D: Brunei's capital Bandar __ Begawan (SERI); 23D: Fall lead-in? (PRAT); 25D: "Kiss Me Deadly" singer Ford (LITA); 26D: "... __ open fire" (ON AN); 27D: It was blamed for reduced pasta sales in 2003 (ATKINS DIET); 28D: Relax (FEEL AT EASE); 29D: Seriously injure (MAIM); 32D: Prefix with 29-Across (ISO-); 34D: Greek known for paradoxes (ZENO); 35D: The "A" in many org. names (ASSN.); 37D: Beginning to cast? (TELE-); 38D: Skelton's Kadiddlehopper (CLEM); 42D: One in a pit (DEALER); 43D: Wrap artist? (ELF); 46D: Plateaus, with "out" (MAXES); 47D: Sniper's aid (SCOPE); 50D: Make no bones about (AVOW); 51D: Supermodel with a Global Chic collection (IMAN); 52D: Line with juice? (CORD); 54D: Rock or tin follower (STAR); 57D: "The 5000 Fingers of __": Seuss film (DR. T).

Jumat, 25 Maret 2011

03.25 Fri

March 25, 2011
John Lampkin

Theme: Half-Baked Ideas — Theme answers are familiar phrases that begin with a repeated first word, but the repeated word is only used once.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: 61-Across Asian appetizer? (PU PLATTER).
  • 21A: 61-Across cheer? (HIP HOORAY).
  • 37A: 61-Across musical? (BYE BIRDIE).
  • 55A: 61-Across gag? (KNOCK JOKE).
  • 61A: Not well thought out (HALF-BAKED).
Wow. Really, really enjoyed this puzzle! Great theme, tricky cluing, lively fill — this puzzle has it all. I had trouble in two areas. In the southwest corner I wouldn't let go of DER for 50A: Hamburger's article, but the correct answer is EIN. I think I was just excited about the opportunity to post a picture of Kevin Der again, which is what I do every time the word DER appears in the puzzle. In fact, just last weekend at the ACPT I told Kevin about how I do that. He doesn't read the blog so he didn't know. Ha! Well now that I've talked about him for so long, I'll go ahead and use his picture. Should I use the same one I've been using all along from two years ago or should I update to the one I just took this past weekend? Decisions, decision!

Anyway, the other place I had trouble was in the Texas area because I had MANTA where SKATE was supposed to go (53D: Ray in the sea), leading me to believe the reveal answer would be ONE-something, which seemed totally reasonable. I also had MONITER for MONIKER (43D: Handle) even though it kinda seemed like it was spelled wrong. I figured it all out eventually and must say I enjoyed the challenge.

PuzzleSon was "helping" me with this puzzle and when he saw KNOCK JOKE he goes, "But those aren't even funny." Ha! Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time last night on my ACPT recap (scroll down to the next post to read it) so I'm pretty much out of time. I'll just hit the highlights real quick and then I'm off to work.

  • 19A: Class figs. (PROFS.). Wanted this to be something to do with numbers, like GPA or something.
  • 29A: Select, in a way (SCREEN). Remember back in the old days when you SCREENed your calls by listening to the answering machine? Or waaaay back when SCREENing your calls wasn't even possible?!
  • 36A: Ballet __ (RUSSE). I don't believe I've ever heard this phrase and I don't know what it means.
  • 67A: Fishhook connector (SNELL). Don't know this one either.
  • 69A: Highland tongue (ERSE). We've covered ERSE in Crosswordese 101 in the past.
  • 5D: Square on the table? (PAT). Not the proverbial square meal, but the literal square PAT of butter.
  • 9D: Chow chow (ALPO). Food (sometimes called chow) for a dog (which might be the type of dog known as a chow).
  • 31D: Nice street (RUE). The first word of this clue refers to the French city of Nice. And the French word for "street" is RUE. We talked about this cluing trick back in the Crosswordese 101 entry for ÉTÉ.
  • 40D: Title savant in a 1988 Oscar-winning film (RAINMAN). I'm an excellent driver.
  • 63D: Danish capital? (DEE). Another tricky clue that we've covered in Crosswordese 101.
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Everything Else 1A: Work on a batter (STIR); 5A: Grandly appointed (POSH); 9A: Stand for (ABIDE); 14A: Strong-spined volume (TOME); 15A: Forte (AREA); 16A: "I __ Piano": Irving Berlin hit (LOVE A); 20A: Bleak (GRIM); 23A: Spine movement? (SHIVER); 25A: Code-cracking gp. (NSA); 26A: Chatspeak qualifier (IMO); 27A: Batter's supply (PINE TAR); 32A: "Then again ..." ("YET …"); 33A: Doglike carnivore (HYENA); 39A: Ashes, e.g. (TREES); 42A: Geometry basic (AXIOM); 43A: Animal's gullet (MAW); 46A: Personally give (HAND TO); 48A: Meadow bloomer in the buttercup family (ANEMONE); 51A: A.L. rival of N.Y. (BOS); 54A: Flashes (GLINTS); 59A: Seed coating (ARIL); 60A: Inspire profoundly (IMBUE); 64A: Great Lakes explorer La __ (SALLE); 65A: Convenient abbr. (ET AL.); 66A: "Pretty Woman" actor (GERE); 68A: Disallow (DENY); 1D: Letters at Indy (STP); 2D: Head-scratcher (TOUGHIE); 3D: Fossil indentation (IMPRINT); 4D: Be haunted by, perhaps (RELIVE); 6D: Sports MD's specialty (ORTH.); 7D: Greet warmly (SEE IN); 8D: Dwells incessantly (on) (HARPS); 10D: Town name ending (BORO); 11D: They don't laugh when they're tickled (IVORIES); 12D: Discredits (DEFAMES); 13D: Hardly a head-scratcher (EASY ONE); 18D: Purple hue (AMETHYST); 22D: Eats (HAS); 23D: Code user (SPY); 24D: Comedic actress Martha (RAYE); 28D: 1988 self-titled C&W album (REBA); 30D: FBI facility since 1932 (CRIME LAB); 34D: Disallow (NIX); 35D: Diva's moment (ARIA); 37D: Daffodils' digs (BED); 38D: Bell sound (DONG); 39D: 1889 work of art deemed unsuitable for general display at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (THE KISS); 41D: Dignify (ENNOBLE); 44D: Pair in a rack (ANTLERS); 45D: Horror filmmaker Craven (WES); 47D: Gram. case (OBJ.); 49D: Illusion (MIRAGE); 52D: Gasped in delight (OOHED); 56D: Select (CULL); 57D: Sailing stabilizer (KEEL); 58D: Vigorous style (ELAN); 62D: Annoying buzzer (FLY).

Kamis, 24 Maret 2011

03.24 ACPT

ACPT Wrap-Up

This was my fourth year attending the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and so far it's gotten better every year, which hardly seems possible. The first thing I want to say — and I'll probably say this about ten more times — is that you really really really don't need to be a speed-solver to have fun. I'm gonna say that again right now and I'm gonna type it real slow so pay attention. YOU DON'T NEED TO BE A SPEED-SOLVER TO HAVE FUN AT THE ACPT. I can't stress this enough. I hear people say they're not fast enough and that's why they decide not to attend. It's SO not about that. I mean, think about it. Every year I've attended there have been more than 600 competitors. You know how many of those 600 actually crack the top 20? Yes, that's right, 20. The rest of us know the weekend will bring us no glory, but THAT'S NOT THE POINT. What is the point? The point is to be around Puzzle People for a couple days. And why is it awesome to be around Puzzle People? Because you can have indepth conversations about pencils. Because you can use a lot of big words. Because you can play word games with people and not hold back in order to refrain from crushing their spirits the way you have to do with your family. And if none of that sounds appealing to you, you really need to know that Puzzle People are the nicest, most welcoming people in the world and they're super fun to be around. Even the socially awkward ones seem slightly less awkward at ACPT. (And, really, who among us isn't socially awkward?) So let me tell you a little bit about my weekend.

I arrived in New York Thursday afternoon. The official puzzle festivities don't begin until Friday, but a number of people start drifting in Thursday. I actually thought I was the first one there, but then I spotted Deb Amlen in the hotel lounge. As you probably know, Deb writes the official New York Times blog, Wordplay. She just started the gig earlier this year, so it's new for her. And it was pretty cool hearing some behind-the-scenes stories about the New York Times, the paper's blog team, and how Wordplay is a totally different animal than our humble little L.A. Crossword Confidential. (It's the New York Times after all!)

By the time the evening rolled around, we had ourselves a nice little puzzle gang that included Deb, PuzzleSister, Doug Peterson, Amy Reynaldo, Sam Donaldson, Merl Reagle and some other people I'm sure I'm forgetting. Oh yeah, Peter Gordon was there. If you attended the tournament and weren't approached by Peter about his new iPhone app, "Celebrities," ... oh who am I kidding? There wasn't a single person at the tournament who wasn't approached by Peter Gordon about his "Celebrities" app. I'm willing to bet money on that. Peter's app is a high-tech version of the well-known party game and it's a blast. He was basically testing the app on us (and by "us" I mean anybody who ventured within a ten-foot radius of his iPhone) and we will no doubt hear about it when it's available for purchase.

On Thursday we had a great dinner and basically just hung out at the hotel. Let me tell you a little bit about Merl Reagle. I could sit and listen to Merl all day long. The man thinks about words All. The. Time. And it's interesting stuff too! PuzzleSister was wearing a sweatshirt that said NEVADA (which is where she lives) and as soon as she sat down Merl says, "You see how with the word NEVADA you can take the first and last letters off and then flip the rest of the letters around and it makes the name DAVE?" We're all, "Yeah, Merl! We see it! That's cool!" And then he goes, "What other U.S. State can you do that with?" And we're all "We're too dumb, Merl! We'll never figure it out!" So he tells us that with the other state, the name you come up with is actually the last name of a famous person. So we all sat around trying to figure it out for a while but never did get it, except for Amy who cheated. I'm not going to tell you the answer in case you want to figure it out for yourself, but I will just say that PuzzleSister then wore a sweatshirt with the name of that state on it the following day. It was a little Twilight Zone-ish.

Friday we had kind of a lazy morning and almost didn't make it to lunch with the gang. Thank God for Doug Peterson. He wouldn't let them leave without us. We had lunch at a Peruvian place with great food and extremely mediocre service. But we didn't care! We were having a blast anyway! The restaurant had white butcher paper on the tables and little plastic cups full of crayons available for ... well, I suppose, they're available for the children, but a bunch of people in our group decided to use them to make crossword grids. I don't think we came up with anything particularly creative, but it was a good way to kill time. The challenge was to use the five-letter names of two people at our table, TYLER (Hinman) and BYRON (Walden), one on top of the other (insert your own inappropriate joke here). That double Y looks daunting, but I took care of it by using the two-word phrase "SAY YES." I know. This is way too exciting isn't it? I can tell you can't wait to come next year!

The official tournament activities began Friday night with a team puzzle event, but PuzzleSister and I had already decided not to participate. We did it our first year and it was really fun, but this year we were more in the mood for unstructured time. Also, participation in the Friday night activity costs extra. Wait, that's not exactly fair. What happened was the Friday night activity used to be included in the registration fee but a lot of people who live in New York and don't stay at the hotel would end up not coming out for it. So this year they made the fee for the Friday night activity separate (and the registration fee lower). So it's not really fair to say it cost extra, but it was a separate charge and we didn't really want to do the thing anyway so we didn't. Instead we had dinner at an awesome Italian restaurant with an awesome group of people including Rex and Mrs. Parker, Patrick Blindauer and his lovely fiancée, and former five-time Jeopardy! champion John Beck, who apparently knows gang signs? (Those Jeopardy! people are so smart!) Then we went back to the hotel and mingled and played "Celebrities" and basically just enjoyed being around Puzzle People until very late at night, by which I mean, like, 2:00 in the morning. (Who's too old for that kind of behavior? PuzzleGirl, that’s who!)
Saturday morning is when the solving part of the tournament actually starts, but the first puzzle doesn't start until 11:00, which is really very civilized if you think about it. Because I actually had a couple puzzles published recently, though, I was very excited to be invited to an unofficial women constructors' breakfast that happens every year. I was less excited when I learned I was expected to be there at 8:30, but whatever. It was awesome. I already knew a couple of the women there, but was very happy to meet Nancy Schuster, Nancy Shack, Sarah Keller, and (especially) Donna Levin. I've been a fan of Donna's for a long time and I've always been so grateful to her for visiting the blog — it was very cool to finally meet her in person. Other constructors at the breakfast who we've seen here on LACC include Bonnie Gentry and C.W. Stewart, both of whom I met last year, and both of whom are super, super nice and fun to be around.

I feel like I've already been rambling for a long time here, so let me try to be a little more succinct. On Saturday the ballroom fills up with 650-or-so people all ready to solve some puzzles. The puzzles are available online so I'm not going to spoil them in case you still want to do them. I'll just tell you that the difficulty level of the puzzles varies, but you do know what to expect in advance. For example, Puzzle 1 is always super easy and Puzzle 5 is always really, really hard. You're also informed in advance how big each puzzle is and how much time will be allowed. So that kind of gives you an idea what to expect. You know what's the most important thing to remember though? YOU DON'T NEED TO BE A SPEED-SOLVER TO HAVE FUN AT THE ACPT.

Basically, my goals every year are to place higher than I did the previous year and to finish Puzzle 5. I actually reached one of those goals once — I did better my second year than my first — but just that once. I've never finished Puzzle 5 and the last two years my ranking has actually slipped. But guess what. It doesn't matter. Hanging out with Puzzle People is FUN and even if I came in dead last, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

So we solved three puzzles, broke for lunch, then came back and solved three more. That evening I joined the Crossword Fiend blogging team for dinner at a really nice restaurant in Manhattan where I didn't really get to spend enough time with Janie and Neville, but had quite enough of Sam. (Just kidding, Sam!) You'll never guess what happened next. That's right: back to the hotel for hanging out and "Celebrities." Only this time I didn't get to bed until 3:00am, which is pretty stupid but I just couldn't leave! I didn't want to miss anything! And in hindsight, it turns out I was right to stay. If I had gone to bed earlier I would have missed about 64 hilarious things Jeremy Horwitz said and would totally have missed Peter Gordon's impression of Jeremy's typical exclamation of approval while playing "Celebrities," which is "Nice!" only when I type it you really don't get the full effect. In fact, I don't think you can really get the full effect unless you're sitting in a bar in Brooklyn at 2:00 in the morning and you're Peter Gordon.

Sunday morning we solved one more puzzle and it was a doozy. It was a puzzle constructed by Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan. I saw Ashish after the puzzle and he looked a little rough. Apparently he'd been out all night drinking with Matt Gaffney and Brendan Emmett Quigley, who he described as "bad, bad men." After Puzzle 7, people go check out of the hotel and wait around for the finals. There was a talent show going on during the wait, which I really enjoyed last year, but this year somehow I just missed it. Probably the sleep deprivation which caused me to not understand what was going on any more. Oh man! There were group activities Saturday night and I missed those too. I'm probably the last person Will Shortz wants writing about the ACPT because I didn't do any of the planned activities. I swear I don't have anything against those activities — it really just worked out that way.

So the finals. First they hand out trophies for all the different divisions (competitive divisions, age, and region). The top three finishers in the A, B, and C Divisions solve the final puzzle on the big boards in front of everyone (no pressure!). As you probably know, the grid for all three divisions is exactly the same. It's the clues that determine the difficulty. While the C Division finalists are solving on the big boards, the room is pretty quiet. I think a lot of people take that time to solve the puzzle. Then for the A and B Division finals, Merl Reagle and NPR's Neal Conan give the play-by-play. Yes, it really does get kind of exciting. This year it was the B Division finals that were the most exciting though. I believe there was a half-second difference between the first- and second-place finishers (David Plotkin and Ken Stern, respectively). In the A Division finals, on the other hand, Dan Feyer finished something like three minutes before former five-time champion Tyler Hinman wrapped up his grid. If you think about it, that really is amazing. I mean Tyler's no slouch! Dan is basically a freak of nature is what I'm saying.

After the finals, people start drifting out of the hotel to the train stations and airports, and ultimately back to their lives. Over the next couple days it's pretty fun to watch the pictures pop up and all the Puzzle People friend each other on Facebook. And that's really about it. It was an awesome weekend. I got to spend time with people I really love even if it seems like I don't know them all that well. I also got to meet some new people like Rich Norris (finally!), Brad Wilber, Bob Klahn (Bob Klahn!), and Andrew Ries. Some of the folks leaving will be congregating in L.A. in a month or so, others won't see each other again until Lollapuzzoola 4, but I hope everyone will be back at ACPT next year! And you should come too!