Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015, Alex Vratsanos


As I'm sure all of you know, because you've been counting along, this blog post is the 1000th on this site. The first entry was on March 13, 2013 (the year was not included in the post title, perhaps an indication of how long Horace thought the blog might go on?). It was a Wednesday, and the posted time of 39:22 certainly says something about how far we've progressed in terms of solving ability.

I know Horace and Frances wanted to create a blog which catalogued the efforts of "normal" solvers of the NYT, rather than the incredibly fast times posted on other similar sites. The more you do something, however, the better you get at it. I know my times have definitely gone down over the past year or two of doing each puzzle.

I do want to point out that this is not the 1000th puzzle solved. There were at least two posts which were not attached to a puzzle: Horace's summary of the ACPT he attended, and my own summary post of September's grading system. So the honor of discussing that landmark grid will go to Horace on December 1, which is only fitting.

Anyway, on today's puzzle. The theme is interesting: there are four 4-letter words, though not of the sort we all expected on reading the title. If you take them in order from left to right, and top to bottom, you get OVER, HEAD, LONG, and SHOT. By combining them in all possibilities where no word can go before a word ahead of it, you get 6 combinations: overhead, overlong, overshot, headlong, headshot, and longshot. Each of these then provides the clue for the longer theme answers, in order from left to right and top to bottom.

I like the setup: it's rigorous and interesting. I don't love BEYONDTHETIMELIMIT as a definition for "overlong"; although in thinking about it, I get that, for example, a presidential candidate in a debate who runs past the buzzer, well, his or her answer would be overlong. I was thinking more along the lines of a quiz show or something.

YEARBOOKPHOTOGRAPH is an interesting choice for a "headshot". Normally I'd think of a publicity picture for an actor or dancer. NOTAGOODBET for "longshot" is my favorite of the answers. How hard would it have been to have every single combination of words represented? That would be 12 entries, and the words would have to be chosen very carefully.

There are a number of nice 9-letter and 8-letter down answers scattered through the grid. I liked ABRASIVES, STATUETTE, SANITIZER, and SKELETOR the best. I don't really like AGEMATES at all. I don't buy it as a real term, although it Googles perfectly well. I also don't like 45A: Workers on the board (IRONERS) - the clue is fine, the answer is just one of those -ER words, and it's pluralized as well.

27A: What a driverless car drives (ITSELF) is great. Right to the point. 49A: It covers everything quite clearly (SARAN) is also very good, although do we ever say just "saran" and not addend the "wrap"? Glad to have OGDEN Nash represented, as always.

I can't give a grade to 1A, because it's a theme entry. Maybe my favorite clue-answer pair is 34D: Mustard, but not ketchup: Abbr. (COL), referring to the game Clue. Nice hidden capital.

- Colum


  1. Congratulations to us! A thousand posts is a thousand posts. It's been been a lot of fun, and this year, in particular, has flown by now that we've been alternating months. And you're exactly right about the original intent being to bring the voice of an "everyman" to the blogosphere, but now, as you have pointed out, what we have ended up bringing is solid proof that daily practice brings improvement. Thirty-nine minutes for a Wednesday? Today it seems inconceivable, but really, the everyman thing was pretty much gone the minute you started to post your times in the comments, am I right?

    When Frannie and I first met, we both had subscriptions to Games magazine, and we maintained the double subscription even after we moved in together, because neither of us wanted to give up the joy of solving the crosswords. Eventually, as we found we had less and less time to devote to the magazine, we finally let one of them go. (We still maintain one, even though it has morphed, sadly, into World of Games, or whatever it is.) After we started doing the blog, though, and got back to doing a puzzle more regularly, it didn't take long before we each had our own iPad app and subscription to the NYT Puzzle. Heh.

    But getting back to solving times, we eventually stopped posting them on Sundays, because to us, the joy of sitting around of a Sunday morning, nursing a coffee and passing a puzzle back and forth is a thing that should not be rushed. Some of the most pleasant memories I have involve Frannie, me, one or more of my brothers, and/or one of our friends (Colum included) passing the NYT Magazine around on a clipboard, with a pen - always a pen - discussing the various problem areas, good clues and bad clues... ahh... crosswords. Thank you, Mr. Shortz, for being such a big part of our lives for so long.

  2. As for this particular one, we enjoyed it pretty well. COL, as you pointed out, was quite good. I also loved the hidden capital in 104D: Ho hi (ALOHA). That's excellent clueing. EUPHORIA, ILLKEPT, OPENBAR, SANITIZER... all good. And coincidentally, Frannie and I were both IRONERS today. Getting ready for the workweek. Back to the grind tomorrow, and the blogging on Tuesday. Looking forward to it!

  3. 40:05
    I don't mind timing Sundays. Of course, I don't pass the document around with anyone, and I enjoy coffee prior to getting out of bed. ALOHA was, indeed, excellently clued. I liked seeing DOWNEY clued with "Chaplin" instead of "Ironman" although I enjoyed both movies immensely. HOARY is a nice word, and it seems to be in a symmetrical position as relates to HOAGY. I liked EXPENSETYPE, as I quite enjoy financial accounting (see my trip reports). Interesting way to clue VIOLIN, too, using The Beatles. I never heard of AUTOBOT (or Decepticon), nor am I familiar with EVESBAYOU; maybe I should see it.