Thursday, September 11, 2014

NYT 12:03 (Amy) 
LAT 3:37 (Gareth) 
BEQ 8:27 (Matt) 
CS 13:51 (Ade) 

Fireball contest puzzle by Peter Broda this week, so no write-up yet. I hope Peter or Peter will remind me to blog the puzzle come Sunday.

Patrick Blindauer’s New York Times crossword, “Change of Heart”

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 14, no 0911

NY Times crossword solution, 9 11 14, no 0911

Boy, this one was a hair-puller and teeth-gnasher, wasn’t it? It didn’t take long to see that some letters would need to change because of conflicts between the Across and Down clues. I had a mess of a grid, with various assortments of “insert both letters in one square,” “use the letters that work for the Across clue,” and “use the letters that work for the Down clue.” Eventually I gambled that the Down direction should take precedence, such that every Down answer fit its clue and the Acrosses were valid entries that didn’t necessarily fit their clues. Hey! It worked. I just had trouble in my highlighted answer, because I’d left the D in DEL in place rather than changing it, and 34d. [They may be drawn before bedtime], *ATES, wasn’t budging. I didn’t quite cotton to the fact that each Across answer had just its central letter changed. (BATHS!)

If you did the Lollapuzzoola puzzles last month, you will recall a very similar puzzle #4 that destroyed many solvers’ hopes of a clean finish. It is, in fact, the very same puzzle you see here today. It was such a vexing solve that I did the same exact puzzle a month ago and didn’t recognize it, and still struggled with it. (I didn’t see the puzzle’s title, or the explanatory note that revealed the puzzle’s source.)

So: Instead of 1a, 14a, and 17a being MOUSE, AVRIL, and TAKE APART, they become MOOSE, AVAIL, and TAKES PART. 3d is OAK, which conflicts with the U and R that must instead become O and A. And the A-into-S facilitates ELSIE the Borden cow at 5d.

Clue I didn’t understand for a long time, but might well have in August: 34a. [It can be saved or cured], BACON. Central letter changes because of EARTH and 34a becomes BARON. I had all the Down crossings except BATHS figured out, and neglected to recall the whole “change of the heart of the Across word” aspect.

I haven’t got much else to say here. This puzzle was still hard my second time through! Interesting gimmick, intricate construction, but little in the way of really nifty clues. 4.25 stars.

Steve Marron’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Gareth’s review

LA Times 140911

LA Times

I just deleted my entire post. Go me. I thought I’d already published it. Let’s try to remember what I wrote…

is a quality starting off point for a crossword. In this case, it implies that the other theme answers can form the pattern “___ POINT” and are clued with POINT implied. Ideally, these should make no sense until you get the key answer, MISSINGTHEPOINT, in this case. However, in this puzzle (and it isn’t the only one of this genre to have this flaw), the clues sort of fit the answers without POINT as well. [Zero degrees Celsius, for water], FREEZING{POINT} is sometimes referred to as just FREEZING; [Capacity limit], SATURATION{POINT} and TRANSITION{POINT}, [Moment of change] work for both too. Only [Sensitive spot], PRESSURE{POINT} has an effective disconnect between clue and answer.

The non-theme fill on the other hand was definitely bouncier than usual. IGOTCHA is a bit iffy, but the two long downs, FIRSTBASE and MIAMIHEAT (sports, go sports) are both good’uns. There are also a lot of good choices in the middle-length fill: the SAFARI/ADIDAS/DORITO stack in the top left, the intersecting POLYMER/ZYDECO in the top-right; modern MALWARE in the bottom-left it’s a nice collection that!

I think that balances out to around 3.5 stars
Gareth, leaving you with ENNIO

Alan Arbesfeld’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Final Draft”—Ade’s write-up  

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.11.14: "Final Drafts"

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, 09.11.14: “Final Draft”

Hello there once again!

Today’s puzzle, authored by Mr. Alan Arbesfeld, had me confused for a little bit as to what the theme was.  Even though each theme answer had a “count-up” of drafts, I thought the theme, for a long while, involved the number of Ls at the end of the grid entries. Then, after I finished the entire grid and read aloud the theme answers, I thought, “Oh, #^&$@, they’re all types of “drafts!”  Yeah, sometimes it takes a while for the old noggin to figure out what’s taking place.  Sometimes, my brain just continues to be in a deep freeze.  Regardless, the grid was a fun one!

  • ARMY SERVICE BILL: (17A: [First draft])
  • WINTERTIME CHILL: (27A: [Second draft]) – It will be at your door before you know it…get the thermal wear ready!
  • BARTENDER’S SPILL: (35A: [Third draft]) – In terms of knocking over a drink and causing a mess, I’m the one that usually spills.
  • DRAW UP AS IN A WILL: (44A: [Fourth draft])
  • ANNUAL NBA THRILL: (61A: [Fifth draft])

I’m wondering how many people also know ONYX as the early 1990s rap group with the hit song “Slam” (55D: [Cameo stone])?  It’s another way to clue the word, and if you look up the song, I’m almost certain that, even if you’re far from a hip-hop aficionado, you would have heard the song’s familiar beat/chorus at some point in your life, most recently in Sprite commercials.  Let me know if you look it up, hear it, and had never heard the beat before, and I’ll apologize to you for wasting your time. Speaking of never hearing things before, I have never heard anyone, let alone myself, say the word REAVOW (1D: [Swear again]).  But when looking at MANO, a lot of us have heard of the phrase, “Look ma, no hands,” (54D: [“Look ____ hands!”]).  But does anyone know where that line originally came from?  Totally a mystery to me.  A couple of groundbreaking women in their fields make appearances in the grid, with TOMLIN (3D: [Funny Lily]) and LUELLA (50D: [Fashion designer Bartley]).  To wrap up, totally love the cluing to BVD (35D: [Brief letters?]).  Have always been a boxers guy compared to briefs, but on occasion, I have slipped on some briefs that I do possess.  Maybe I’ll buy a pack of BVDs after reading this, if BVD is still in business.  It’s been a long time since seeing advertisements of theirs!

“Sports will make you smarter” moment of the day: WEIR (48D: [“The Truman Show” director Peter]) – A couple of short sports references to some famous Weirs in sports.  Canadian golfer Mike Weir is best known for his win at the 2003 Masters and becoming the first Canadian and first left-handed player to win the tournament. Also, American figure skater/NBC commentator Johnny Weir was the bronze medalist at the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships as well as a three-time U.S. champion, from 2004-2006.

See you all on Friday!

Take care!


Brendan Emmett Quigley’s website puzzle, “Funny Business” — Matt’s review


This felt really tough, even though my time was only 8:27. Was making mistakes left and right, like putting in PSST instead of the correct EASY for ??S? clued as [“Hey now!”] and forgetting golfer LORENA Ochoa’s name as SERENA (still have Williams on the brain from last weekend). And parsing PHLEVEL [Base measurement] took me a while.

The theme involves adding business indicators (INC, BROS, AND SONS, CO) to base phrases to make new phrases. They are:

20-A [Healthful mineral from anime?] = DRAGONBALL ZINC, from “Dragonball Z”.

26-A [“I’m crazy about my fine collection of guitars with steel resonators”?] = LOVE ME DOBROS. From “Love Me Do.” I think I’ve heard of Dobro guitars, but needed the crosses. “Dobro” is “good” in Russian so I wondered if the company founder was Russian. No, but right idea: he was Slovak, and the word means “good” in that language as well.

46-A [Male offspring with 20 fingers each?] = FOUR HAND SONS, from “Four-H”.

53-A [Dice game played by someone from a German port?] = HAMBURGER BUNCO. From “hamburger bun.”

4.20 stars.

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51 Responses to Thursday, September 11, 2014

  1. John says:

    I did this one at Lollapazoola, so I was a little disappointed to not get a new puzzle today, but that was overshadowed by my happiness that it gets a bigger audience. It would have been a shame if only we lucky few had gotten to struggle through it last month.

    I used a “google ticket” to figure out that my answer of MOUSE had to become MOOSE, and that, along with the title, was enough to make the theme clear.

    I can rest assured that the amusingly distracting puzzle from earlier in the tournament can’t be replicated in the NYT.

    • Papa John says:

      What’s a “Google ticket’? I did an online search but came up empty-handed.

      • pauer says:

        It’s our sanctioned form of cheating at the tourney. At the halfway point, people can use one of their raffle tickets to get a free answer. We don’t usually give theme answers, but this one made us bend our own rules a little on that point. And yes: we gave the intended grid entry, not the one that matched the clue.

      • Howard B says:

        After Patrick just beat me to it: :)
        At Lollapuzzoolla, each contestant is given a number of “Google tickets” at the start of the event. They may be used, with certain restrictions, during the competition by handing one to a judge and requesting one answer. The judge then (quietly) writes the answer to that clue on the ticket.
        This acts as a sort-of simulation of looking up an answer in a puzzle. The trade-off is that the contestant forfeits a complete puzzle bonus for doing so, and gets a small point penalty for using the ticket. So it’s a nice way to get around that pesky frustrating corner in a pinch.

  2. placematfan says:

    How can a puzzle that appeared at Lollapuzzoola be in the NYT? Every market I’ve published a crossword in, including the NYT, required some legal-y documentation to the effect that “this puzzle has never been published and is an original work” or whatever. Just curious.

    • ===Dan says:

      Surprised not to see an answer yet. Publication of this puzzle had the approval of the NYT editor (Will Shortz), and the constructor (Patrick Blindauer). And Patrick is one of the organizers of Lollapuzzoola where the puzzle first appeared. Normally the rule you mention is enforced to guarantee that NYT has the right to publish the puzzle, and that’s not an issue today.

  3. Gareth says:

    I placed both letters as though it were a rebus. This meant solving for me was mostly unchecked. Still I got all the right letters in both directions except for REEKY in place of RETRO, oh and I see another: GERARDO not RICARDO, oh and NOTET for NONET. Oh and I assumed ROXIE/EMERY were correct both across and down, but they aren’t.

    This is extremely clever, intricate construction that is unpleasant to solve – crosswords don’t have unchecked squares for good reason… I didn’t fully grok the puzzle while solving. Having 3 heart answers that I assumed were right both ways didn’t help.

  4. Evad says:

    Struggled with this as well, thought initially the change in letters from across to down followed some pattern (I was encouraged when UPSWING became UPSWIOH in the other direction, thinking the letters went up one in the alphabet).

    Anyway, I see that the letters that change are “the heart” or middle of each word, but, and perhaps this is my ignorance, why were words like MAT, OVA, ERI and RYE in the NW and SE unchanged? And also I have the T in RETAG sharing the T in LIT which didn’t change, but its partner OFAGE / DDE did.

    Certainly impressed as well with the construction and concept, but left a bit like Gareth that I’m not sure I have it all right even when I got the concept.

    • Evad says:

      I see now I thought the middle of down words also changed–I had DDE instead of ABE for that president, that’s why LIT/LOT was ok. Oops.

      Other false starts included thinking that only the letters HEART would change based on the title and that down words would rotate by one position (as EARTH does from HEART). I’m afraid to give Patrick any other ideas, tho.

  5. ArtLvr says:

    I have to agree with Gareth — unpleasant! With other rebus puzzles we’ve been trained to put the across letter first in the rebus square to get a correct solution. So this was a Downer in every sense. Also, I think the college is EMORY, not Emery…

    • pauer says:

      It is, but the central letter gets changed to an E (making TEX going down).

    • pannonica says:

      We’ve been trained because that’s how AcrossLite defaults. I did the same thing; after methodically double-checking that I’d address each ‘wordheart’ (even circled the squares with the * key) I had the program check my solution and was rewarded with a big X in every one of those squares. Then I realized that logically the replacement letter should be the one to appear. Quickly amended my grid and voilà.

      I liked this one, didn’t think it was an enjoyment-eclipsing slog.

  6. David L says:

    Count me among the nay-sayers on this. As you say, it’s easy to see that something funny is going with the central letters in the answers, and I spent a lot of time entering them as double-letter rebus-style answers. And … then what? The grid made no sense, of course, and I couldn’t see how to make sense of it. In other words, it’s a tricksy puzzle, which is fine, but for me at least there was no way to figure out what the correct solution was supposed to be. In the supposedly correct solution solution, many of the across clues don’t work — so how does that qualify as correct?

    If you’re going to have a puzzle as complicated as this, there needs to be a light-bulb moment that tells you you’ve got it right. For me, there wasn’t.

  7. Papa John says:

    Regarding the NYT puzzle: Why?

    • pauer says:

      Why ask why? Try Bud Dry.

    • ===Dan says:

      Why? It’s an innovation: something challenging, surprising, and creative. Why not? Why shouldn’t 1 out of every thousand puzzles have a commensurately high level of difficulty?

      • Papa John says:

        Sorry if I mislead you. I did not find it difficult, at all. It became clear, with the very first entry, MOOSE, that the pertinent down fill was the “correct” answer, so I merely solved for that and let the across “hearts” do what they did. The challenge is to go through the entire puzzle to make certain that every “heart’ was changed. I’m going to assume Shortz, or his team, did that. So, I ask again, “Why?”

        Great construction? Sure. Pleasant solve? Not much.

  8. Huda says:

    Wow… something must be different in me because I LOVED IT– the NYT puzzle that is. And honestly expected a bunch of 4 and 5 ratings. Amazingly clever, and once I tumbled to the theme, I put a circle in each of the horizontal middle squares and waited till it revealed itself from the downs.
    Maybe I’m just to being in the dark while I’m solving and in this case it was helpful. The fact that every word made a lot of sense both as clued and as written was pretty impressive.

    • Papa John says:

      I don’ t follow you, Huda. How does “Copmputer purchase” and MOOSE make a lot of sense?

      • Amy Reynaldo says:

        It doesn’t. But MOOSE is every bit as solid a piece of crossword fill (ignoring the clue) as MOUSE. Looking at the solved grid, everything looks kosher. It’s just the Across clues that cause trouble.

  9. Scott says:

    Hated it!

  10. Matt M. says:

    I disagree with David L. — the light bulb moment for me was when I realized that “Change of Heart” meant that the central letter (heart) of each Across answer had to be changed. Then I could confirm that I was right if (1) the Down answer was right (2) only the central letter of the Across answer was changed and (3) the new Across answer was still a valid crossword entry.
    So I was able to get it all right even though I’ve never heard of GERARDO, at least as far as I can remember.
    I thought it was a terrific puzzle — an intricate feat of construction that was also fun (and very challenging!) to solve.

    • David L says:

      That seems more like a chandelier than a light bulb….! I kinda sorta figured out what was going on, but having laboriously inserted two letters in all the crossing squares, I just didn’t have the patience to go back and change them to see if it was right. So I called it a day.

      But each to his own, of course. This wasn’t my cup of tea, clearly.

  11. Papa John says:

    Oh, and since when does the NYT puzzle have a time limit? Was that originally for the tournament and Shortz thought it would be a good idea to do it for the daily, too? Why? (There I go again…)

    By the way, I’m happy to report that I actually beat out Amy on this one and I don’t play for speed. Not by much, I should add.

  12. Giovanni P. says:

    I had solved this one in the At-Home Division, so nothing new for me here. I liked it, and some of that may be because I like puzzles with twists.

    All we need is a David Steinberg puzzle tomorrow, and the collective UGH would be audible from across the country :P.

  13. Avg Solvr says:

    Reading elsewhere, it seems that with the unusual exception of John Papa here, the minority that got it loved it, the rest that didn’t hated it. Who woulda’ thunk? Patrick Blindauer’s construction may be a great feat, but his greater one might be having made so many people feel stupid.

  14. pauer says:

    For those curious about such things, I just remembered that this theme had two other versions before I landed on this one. These were hastily clued and never properly fact-checked, but some might get a kick out of seeing the evolution of this idea. “Change of Heart 01” was first, followed by “Dirty Double Acrossers”:

  15. Art Shapiro says:

    This is one of the infrequent times my reaction was “so what?”. If the changed letter had been a rotation through “HEART”, as per the alleged give-away answer “EARTH”, then I could have appreciated the point. Otherwise, if one divines that the down answer is the correct choice (and I didn’t), it’s merely a different word going across. Again, so what?

    Throw in the wretched rap clown, and that was just more icing on the cake.

    Guess one can’t make everyone happy all the time. Didn’t work for me – a rare one star.


  16. Mr. Grumpy says:

    NYT just seemed dumb. So, PB wrote a puzzle in which the across clues were irrelevant — save as a way of getting all but the central letter in case the down clues weren’t obvious enough. I went for the rebus option as well, since I see nothing in “Change of Heart” that calls for replacing the center letter. Maybe it should have been “Heart Transplant,” but I expect I still would have hated it.

  17. Papa John says:

    Because I had some slack time, today, I read the comments on Wordplay. Turns out, despite what AvgSolvr said about me, there were others who got the gimmick, yet still felt unsatisfied with the solve. By far, the majority of the commenters were not pleased with this puzzle, many saying so in a graphic, terse manner — the word “hate” came up more than once. Certainly passions were higher on that blog than here. (Is Wordplay a blog?)

    In many instances, my “Why?” comment was re-phrased as “So what?”

    The story was told that Joon did this puzzle at the tournament using only the down clues (an option apparently available to the contestants) and he finished first, with four minutes and change. As I explained, I did basically the same thing, but it took longer that his time, yet not by much. I wasn’t in a hurry.

    As many also noted on Wordplay, the clues were comparatively easy, especially for a Thursday. Shortz says he changed the clue at 1 across (and a few others) to what I can only define as a give-away and, like I said earlier, that gave the whole shebang away, so it became easy sailing from then on.

    Some commenters disparagingly said it was merely a chance for the constructor to show off, which he certainly did, but that only added to the “so-what “experience as a solver.

    Many thought it was either a love it or hate it situation. For me it was simply another puzzle. Many commenters said it wasn’t a crossword puzzle at all. I don’t comprehend that complaint.

    • Mr. Grumpy says:

      I can see someone complaining that it isn’t really a crossword puzzle because the across clues are essentially meaningless. I would phrase the complaint differently (see above) but I can comprehend the complaint on that basis.

    • Tuning Spork says:

      Knowing that there was a “Downs Only” division at Lollapuzzoola, I wondered if a) the correct solution was the down answers (thus giving the Downs Only Solvers a much appreciated boost in the standings), or b) the across answers (thus making the Downs Only Solvers rue the day they were born).

      I went with downs and finished in about 23 minutes. No google tickets.

      Hated it. :-D

  18. Jules says:

    As the winner of the 2012 Orca for “Most Divisive Puzzle” the fact that there was no award given in that category for 2013, had me thinking I might be the last to hold the title. That might have been a bit premature.

  19. Hlrobert says:

    Yup, hated it!

  20. pauer says:

    But did you also think it sucked? Most importantly, was it really a crossword?!

    Guess I won’t try to challenge people or experiment with the form again … until I do. Consider yourselves warned.

    • Alex B. says:

      I think it’s important, maybe essential, to challenge people and experiment with the form. But I think it’s also important to realize how far people are willing to go. In this case, it appears that a puzzle with numerous unchecked squares was a bridge too far. One thing that’s nice about crosswords is that if you don’t know something — say, the “Rico Suave” rapper — you can learn it from the crossings. There was no such joy here, and so I can understand people’s feelings. It’s just too bad that on blogs, these feelings sometimes end up just coming out as “hated it.”

  21. AP says:

    hey, wednesday – level solver here–loved the puzzle (even though I had all 2 – letter fills, didn’t get the DOWN / heart component). I think all the old crowd is annoyed their extensive knowledge of crosswordese and 1930s actresses didn’t come into play here ;)

  22. Pauer says:

    But were they *really* unchecked? Let me check … Nope. At least, not completely. Plenty of people sussed out GERARDO by using the theme.

    Still getting emails about this one, so I clearly struck a nerve. My current theory is that most online solvers don’t really want a challenge and give up too early, rushing to the blogs and depriving themselves of an Aha.

    Shrug. I’m done defending my work, especially to a bunch of Haters.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      HGH, Patricio. HGH.

      • Evad says:

        So Henry, what does the G stand for? :)

        • Amy Reynaldo says:

          That’s “haters gonna hate,” of course.

          I had a dream this morning that Trip Payne and I were at Henry’s beach house, and Henry’s talking chimpanzee pronounced my name “Uma.”

    • Deb Amlen says:

      You still have a fan here, PB2. Even if I’m still pulling arrows out of my armor.

    • Bencoe says:

      The really, really difficult puzzles always get a lot of hate. There are many people who don’t like feeling stupid or confused. I don’t quite understand why those people are puzzlers. The point is to be puzzled, right? There are plenty of mindless ways to have fun.
      Anyway, don’t take it personally. Most of your puzzles are well-liked, even loved! Can’t please all of the people all of the time.

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