Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014, Martin Ashwood-Smith


Another double quad-stack from Mr. Ashwood-Smith. I suppose it's good to be known for something, but there's also such a thing as over-doing it, isn't there?

The top quadstack was done in less than ten minutes, as we guessed 1A without crosses and got the others very easily, but two "one's" answers in the first four? That's at least one too many. And crossing the quad we have such gems as LETTS (2D: "August Osage County" playwright Tracy) (?), ROMS, OREO, THEE, OLIOS (plural, no less), and THES. Hmph.

After that, things slowed down considerably. It coincided nicely with our drive from Lille to Utrecht, which ground to a complete halt several times, starting around Antwerp, and continuing, for no visible reason, all the way to our destination. When I come to a complete stop on a highway for more than five minutes, I want to see multiple cars on fire or mangled beyond recognition, but these traffic jams had no visible cause. Most frustrating.

But I digress. Let's get back to the frustrating puzzle, shall we? I've taken a lot of Latin recently, and I've heard all about the Battle of Actium and the year of the four emperors, but I don't ever remember hearing the name CASCA (41D: First stabber of Caesar). I was also not familiar with the song "Janie's Got a Gun," (ok, it sounds a little familiar now...) nor did we watch "The West Wing," so that J was not going to come.

The lower quadstack had WISDOMOFSOLOMON (52A: Keen insight, with "the") and ASCENTOFEVEREST (53A: Peak performance in 1953) (Best clue, maybe, but we knew right away what it was about, even though we didn't get the wording immediately), which were both good, but the other two just seemed kind of blah, and again we get lovely crosses like OWAR, STAFFA, and ADOSE.

I don't know, maybe it was the bad day of driving, but this just wasn't to our liking.

- Horace


  1. What can I say but AW GEE? Anyway, sorry my puzzle was a miss for you guys... it actually was one of my much earlier quadstack puzzles (from about 3 years ago) and there are a few things in it I'd do differently today. As for overdoing it, FYI I've constructed over 550 puzzles for CrosSynergy/Washington Post... and the majority of them are Tuesday-level themed puzzles. So from my perspective, I'm not overdoing it at all ;)

    Anyway, ya can't win 'em all!


    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  2. Hi Martin! I actually thought this was one of your better efforts, and you know I don't love quad stacks. I'm going to take a DNF because I was stuck on the middle E section, not knowing NIALONG. But I probably could have finished it on my own with more time. The lower quad stack is better than the upper one. And yes, I don't like the sacrifice of quality fill to create the quad stacks, but this one worked better for me. Or maybe I'm just getting more used to them!

  3. 37:03?
    We did finish this, but we paused for dinner and forgot to restart the timer right away. I'm estimating and have added 5 minutes to our total.

    We actually started with JED Bartlett and JANIE's Got a Gun right off (Horace, you ain't gonna convince me you don't know that song) and kind of went out in circles. I thought CLEARONESTHROAT immediately, but hesitated putting it in until we had a couple of crosses. And if you're going to have to use OREO, I did like the cluing and pairing with the HERSHEYBAR. The others on top fell in pretty quickly. I also had Edmund Hillary from the clue, and tried to fit it in as SIREDMUNDHILARY, but I knew it wasn't right. Anne eventually got ACCENTOFEVEREST. I liked the "Some paddle wielders" clue for EMTS. And Joe CAMEL was cute.

    But there was a lot here we didn't know and kind of had to muscle through; like, WHENIMGONE, LETTS, LORA. Somehow we came up with them and learned a few things. I've got no problem with the quad stacks and don't find them over done or happening too often.

    BTW, before we got the wonderful Puzzle Solved message we got a new message that said something like "You've completed the puzzle, but there are errors in the grid. Please try again. OK" Has anyone see that before? I had a nasty feeling that it was going to clear the grid and have us start over, but mercifully, no. Even more mercifully given all the half guesses we made, the first thing we corrected was the one.

  4. Hi Martin, thanks for checking in again. Your perspective is, of course, the better one where your puzzle output is concerned. We've only recently started blogging about the puzzles, and it just seems that every time we see your name it's on a quadstack, but then, all we see are the NYT puzzles, so our field of vision is quite narrow.

    Also, our review could really have been influenced by that drive. Heck, even Colum liked it, and he hates the quads!

    Anyway, we look forward to seeing your name again, no matter what day of the week, and no matter how many stacks. And hopefully it hits us on a calmer day.

    Thanks again!

  5. ... and yes, Icarus, I've been singing that refrain in my head ever since writing the review. But I swear I don't know any more that that!

  6. DNF
    I filled in most of the puzzle save for the bottom quad stack, a feature that I don't mind at all, and can usually solve. Anyway, 'nuff said.