Wall Street Journal 2/26/10 (and yet another ACPT wrap-up)

“Table Talk” by Harvey Estes – 14:51

Hi, it’s Jeffrey. The Daily Beast puzzle is no more (sniff) but at the Crossword Fiend Annual General Meeting I was assigned the Wall Street Journal so I can keep my coveted Friday morning timeslot.

But first: Birds do it. Bees do it. Even Cs, Ds, and Es do it. Let’s do it. Let’s write an ACPT recap.

Actually, not really a recap but random thoughts that I had:

  • Left home Thursday 4:00 am PST. Yawn.
  • Taking your watch, belt, keys, shoes and coins out at security is a good thing. Leaving your IPod in your shirt pocket is not. Beep!!!
  • Everyone loved my red Olympic mittens. Perhaps if I had taken them off while solving I would have finished even higher.2055320
  • The hotel bar had the Olympics on the small TV, basketball on the big one. Hello!
  • Tim Hortons has arrived in Brooklyn! Yay!
  • Conversion rate: Canadian medium Tim Hortons coffee = American large Tim Hortons coffee. Makes everyone so hyper that they cross the street on red lights.
  • Friday night, seven guys ate at “Five guys”. I forget some of the names, but it’s not like I track this stuff. I think two were named Tyler and Dan and a few rhymed with Mayan.
  • Saturday night dinner – five guys and an Amy.
  • Friday night dinner with Dan Feyer (A division champ). Saturday night dinner with joon I-don’t-need–no-stinkin’-capitals pahk (B division champ). Who wants dinner with me next year?
  • Gave Howard Barkin his winning Expos hat. Perhaps he should have worn it at the finals? Howard, dinner next year?
  • Hey, Vancouver is on TV!
  • Canadian television shows Olympic events live. You’d think this would be the universal method.
  • If you stand in the lobby for five seconds Peter Gordon will pose a rude riddle. 
  • Rex Parker was at the hotel, but not competing or a judge. That leaves groupie.
  • Attempting to tour the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 3 hours is not a great strategy.
  • Swedish puzzles are difficult to understand. True or false?
  • I won the most important Friday night event – first one at the food table.
  • Speed only matters if you are perfect. Otherwise, accuracy is where it’s at. (Solving not eating. Well maybe both.)
  • Amy knows everybody who has ever been connected with crosswords.
  • Jim Horne reads my blogs! The reverse is also true, but less noteworthy.
  • Before each puzzle, refill your water, take a Life Savers and check the lead in your pencils. You will win a trophy.
  • Giving a second copy doesn’t really help lefthanders. Why not hand out some grids with the puzzle on the left? Or better yet, give everyone a left handed version on one or two of the puzzles. Fair is fair.
  • Leaderboard after 3 puzzles had my name in the top 10 of B’s. Wow.
  • Found two wrong letters in extra two minutes reviewing puzzle 7. Turned out to be huge!!!
  • Sat next to nice guy Doug Peterson at finals/awards. Will henceforth curse Stan Newman instead of Doug during Saturday Stumper meltdowns.
  • Why does last year’s trophy say “Foreign” and this year’s “Canada”? It should say “The Entire World (except the USA)001
  • Despite Sam Donaldson’s best efforts, I won the coveted West Coast Tax Expert division.
  • Travel tip – attempting to get an earlier connection home  through Vancouver during the Olympics is not a great strategy. Unless you enjoy watching it snow in Toronto for six hours.
  • Proudest accomplishment – several subway rides without getting lost or killed.
  • Second proudest accomplishment – First in Foreign/Canada/rest of world, 61st overall.
  • Third proudest accomplishment – crossing the street without getting lost or killed.
  • Will Shortz and crew rock. All of them.
  • Arrived home Tuesday morning,  12:02 am PST. Yawn.
  • My staff was supposed to be working in my absence. Instead they came up with a cake and a ribbon.006P1000562

OK, on to the puzzle.

 WSJ Feb 26 10The theme is described at 63A. [Table request, and this puzzle’s theme] – PASS THE BUTTER and 110D. [Apply 63-Across to this word in three pairs of answers] – PAT. Take PAT out of three phrases in the top of the puzzle…

23A. [Avian alopecia?] – PATTERN BALDNESS
33A. [Object thrown at a demonstration?] – PATRIOT MISSILE
47A. [Howard as a museum supporter?] – PATRON OF THE ARTS
and add it to three phrases in the bottom of the puzzle:
81A. [Check mugs for lumps?] – PALPATE FACES
92A. [Asset for bronze cleaners?] – PATINA SENSE.
109A. [Money that makes the heart beat faster?] – PITAPAT BREAD

Clever theme that takes a while to sort out.

I’m running long, so quick other stuff:

1A. [Parisienne, par exemple] – FEMME
12A. [Entertainment for Old King Cole] – FIDDLERS
21A. [Fishes’ partner] – LOAVES. I didn’t understand this, likely because it’s not something you learn in hebrew school.
31A. [Confectioner of fiction] – WONKA
50A. [Congo’s Thomas Lubanga, for one] – WARLORD. Ok. I’m not up on my Congolese warlords. Also, a DC Comic by Mike Grell.
53A. [Frasier’s clientele] – CALL-INS
68A. [Last in a series] – ZEE. Zed if you wear the red mittens.
74A. [2009 portrayer of Scrooge] –  Jim CARREY. Canadian content!
114A. [Did some lawn work] – RESEEDED. Every puzzle is gonna have one of these.
116A. [Opera’s Simon] – ESTES. Nice try Harvey. I caught you sneaking your name in there.
6D. [Paula’s replacement] – ELLEN
19D. [Mustard, for one] – SUSPECT. A Clue clue.
37D. [Hedge fund manager James Harris ___] – SIMONS. I’m not up on my hedge fund managers.
49D. [Turner of records] – TINA
76D. [Role for Valerie] – RHODA. Valerie Harper. My favorite Valerie is Bertinelli.
78D. [Celia Cruz’s music] – SALSA
83D. [“Love Story” composer] – LAI
95D. [Yards, e.g.] – SPARS. A yard is a spar on a mast from which sails are set.

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom. See you next week!

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20 Responses to Wall Street Journal 2/26/10 (and yet another ACPT wrap-up)

  1. joon says:

    the E division winner was also at your friday night dinner! too bad you couldn’t sup with louis lana or beth welsh.

    i was wondering the same thing about the trophies. what if the guy from denmark had won it?

    re: LOAVES and fishes, no indeed. the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is in all four of the gospels, making it unique among the miracles performed by jesus (other than the resurrection, if you count that).

    i find it pretty forgivable when harvey puts his name into a grid. i’ve used it myself, also on the bottom row. it works wonders there, and is better than RESEEDED and the like. boy will you all be surprised when i think of a legit way to sneak PAHK in there.

  2. MM says:

    Re PAHK: would this work?

  3. Jeffrey says:

    Will has solved the trophy mystery. Trophies are made for both Best Canada and Best Foreign.

    (I could now add Will Shortz read and enjoyed my recap! But I’m too cool to do such a thing).

  4. KarmaSartre says:

    CC – I loved this line: “Swedish puzzles are difficult to understand. True or false?”.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Great write-up of your six-day weekend, Jeffrey!

    Be on the lookout for Biblical fill from Harvey. He used to be a pastor, so he sneaks in the occasional LOAVES/RAPTURES/SMOTE sort of fill, but not in a heavy-handed way.

    (PAT)TERN BALDNESS seemed like it was missing MALE too, but lo and behold, “pattern baldness” is a dictionary entry. And baldness + birds screams “eagle,” so I wasn’t looking for a TERN there.

    I wasn’t loving the theme until I reached the PIT-A-PAT BREAD playing on pita bread. It’s good to save the best for last, but the rest of it was lukewarm. Now, lukewarm butter is a good thing because it spreads on bread more easily, but the theme wasn’t as humorous as Harvey’s usually are.

    Joon, you need a cheesy Bahston accent theme in which park = PAHK. They’ve been done before, but I don’t know that PAHK has made it into the mix.

  6. joon says:

    cheesy boston accent is what i was thinking. we’ll see.

    crosscan, i submit the coinage “eat for the cycle” to mean “have dinner with all the division winners during the ACPT.” i say it can’t be done, so there you have it: i’m throwing down the gauntlet for 2011.

  7. Jeffrey says:

    Are they bringing back the awards banquet? That would help. Any D’s or E’s want a mentor?

  8. HumbleRookie says:

    Jeffrey—YES! I want a mentor! And need one very badly…

    I just survived my first attempt at the ACPT last weekend, and returned home, tail between legs, my pride having been handed back to me on a platter with a lovely Hollandaise sauce and some watercress on the side.

    I’ve now signed up for all the blogs, sites, downloads, you name it…

    A fiend wannabe—

    Ginny from Michigan

  9. Jeffrey says:

    Ginny – doing lots of puzzles and reading blogs about them is a great start. Also consider Amy’s book (see the link under her bio in the upper right corner of this page).

    It gets easier with practice.

  10. Howard B says:

    Congrats, on both the tournament and your successful navigation of the city! Especially love the cake – that’s some great support you have there.

    Thanks for the hat. Didn’t want to change and jinx things this year, but it may make the trip with me next year. Call me out on the dinner next year, and hopefully I can remember. Sounds good.

    I can now appreciate Tim Horton’s coffee, although I’m so far underwhelmed by the donuts. They were giving away free samples of both as a promotion in NY Penn Station last summer when they opened a shop there.

    Finally, at least they’re showing the hockey and some of the figure skating live here. Unfortunately, I missed the women’s hockey final. Congrats to Canada on that one.
    The rest of the events have been mostly heavily tape-delayed. Bleh. It’s only 3 hours difference from my neighborhood, come on!

  11. John Bennett says:

    Nice job on the WSJ crossword puzzle.

    I’d gotten all of the teme answers, but hadn’t figured out that I needed to add “pat” to the top theme answers.

    Well done.

    John M. Bennett

  12. Tuning Spork says:


    Has anyone else been having security/strange computer issues lately?

    Since I spend all of my time at the same five sites everyday, I’m wondering if there may be a bug related to cruciverb’s recent problems.


  13. HumbleRookie says:

    Jeffrey–Thanks for answering! Yes, practice is indeed how you get to Carnegie Hall, or in my case, up to D level status…. I do own Amy’s book, and am reading it now. A better time might have been BEFORE the ACPT (ya think?), but I only decided to register for it about 3 weeks in advance, and spent those three weeks practicing from the books of previous years’ tournament puzzles. I spent 2-3 hours a day at it, and the results were interesting, but not really surprising. On the level of puzzle that was already relatively easy for me, I cut my speed by 1/3 to even 1/2. What I couldn’t do at all a month ago, though, I still can’t. Breaking through to the next level of brain flexibility and creative solving takes longer than one month!

    I’m glad to have found this community!

    VSB, Ann Arbor, Michigan

  14. joon says:

    ginny, i found that with practice, i got noticeably faster at easy puzzles before tough puzzles. but that came, too, with practice. some of it is mental flexibility with tough clues, some of it is being able to recognize the short and medium-length gimmes that can give you a foothold in an otherwise blank area of the grid, and some of it is just pattern recognition for consonants and vowels.

    i used to think that solving lots of hard puzzles was the way to get better at hard puzzles. dan feyer told me that he thinks it’s just solving lots of puzzles, period. i don’t know who’s right, but it’s hard to argue with dan.

  15. Howard B says:

    Time and practice will make you more comfortable with the variety of clues and tricks that you’ll see in all difficulty levels. You’ll also become more familiar with the common answers, unfamiliar names, and things you didn’t know before puzzles.

    Once you’ve become familiar with the “language” of the puzzles, then practicing the harder puzzles will give you more of a benefit, and then the tough puzzles will gradually become easier. Note that I didn’t say “easy” ;).

    Good luck!

  16. miguel says:

    When they declare Texas a foreign country, I’ll give CrossCan a run for that World trophy.
    I look at the top ten finishers in the A Division and wonder what it says that Ellen Ripstien is the meanest person in the bunch and that’s because she once forgot to call her mom on Yom Kippur. I heard Howard once floated through a stop sign making him the most reckless and as for for sloppiest, in the in the third grade, Francis Heaney colored outside the lines on his Happy Father’s Day greeting.

  17. Robert Cronk says:

    People, got to say that i looked at some of great matches the past week. But i must say that it isnt said our neighbours will win that easy from the US. Again Canada had some good luck today from Slovakia. The US will be winning sunday with 6-2! Just a word: Yo Crosby! Get a smile on your face man!

  18. HumbleRookie says:

    Hi Joon! First off, congratulations on your stunning performance! The rest of us you left in the dust are truly in awe! Thanks for your advice, and no, I wouldn’t argue with Dan on anything! Yes, I know about going for the short answers, fill in the blanks, and other “gimmes.” Right now, I’m trying to decide if I skip around too much for my own good, at least in terms of speed. One thing that doesn’t work for me is to stick with a certain section of the grid until I get it. I’d be sitting there totally blank if I did that. If I can’t get some kind of toe-hold immediately, it’s not going to come by sitting and thinking about it. I have to move somewhere else and let the subconscious work on it. After 35 years of teaching piano, about the only thing I’m sure of is that no two brains work in exactly the same way, and no two people memorize in the same way. A technique that’s a lead-pipe cinch for me–and others–will surely bomb with at least one student, sending me right back to the drawing board.

    Happy solving, Joon! OH-and if my schedule pans out the way I’m hoping, I’ll be in Boston in April, and able to make the tournament there. Keeping fingers crossed and pencils sharpened…

  19. Cheryl Big Sis says:

    Hi all! Jeff’s big sis Cheryl here! We’re all stoked and proud, although you know, he was the math geek, I was the puzzle geek!
    You all sound like a terrific group.
    Perhaps a convention on the west coast some day (??)
    Solve on, mighty solvers…..

  20. Jeffrey says:


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