Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sunday, April 3, 2016, Natan Last


For at least the last two years at the A.C.P.T., the puzzles have been solved by a computer, and "Dr. Fill's" results are discussed by his creator, Matt Ginsberg, as part of the Saturday evening program. Dr. Fill was in first place for a while (it solved the first two puzzles in under ten seconds each), but after puzzle five, it fell forty or fifty points, because puzzle five contained what was called a "geometry theme." Believe it or not, Dr. Fill has been programmed to look for certain geometry themes, but Patrick Berry took it a little farther than Dr. Fill was prepared for, apparently.

I'm not sure if this theme is in that same category, but it's at least similar in that I think it would be very difficult for Dr. Fill to finish, as answers are broken up and reconnected by the wormhole of a rebus square. Of course, the crosses all work, so maybe Dr. Fill would've been fine anyway... what do I know?

Anyway, we found the rebus squares in such a way that it looked for a while that they'd simply jump down the puzzle (and then we guessed the bottom one would jump back to the top), but once we realized that "river" could fit in two different places, we finally understood that the theme answer endings were swapped in pairs. WHER[EAR]IGHTTOKNOW and IHAV[EAR]EMYKEYS for example, and so on. Pretty cool, really. I give the theme a solid thumbs up.

A few more things about this before I fall asleep - I love seeing INBOXZERO (83D: Goal of having no unread emails) because I learned that term for the first time just last week, and I loved it. Also, it's one of the pairs of nines that are found in each corner. Other excellent nine-letter entries are TIRESWING, HANGTIGHT, and ALONETIME, which is what I want but never get after puzzle five. :)

And speaking of puzzles, we've got another one in less than an hour, and I'm still finishing my coffee, so I'm signing off short here. Maybe we'll have time to write another wrap up on the drive back north.

Happy puzzling to all!

- Horace

p.s. 1A: ____ -Town (sobriquet in many a Kanye West song) (CHI). Meh. Not terribly exciting, and I'm a little down on Kanye for his being so high on himself. Still, the clue is better than something like "White Sox on the scoreboard," so I'll give it a C+.

p.p.s. We were seated in the Grand Ballroom this morning, waiting for Will Shortz to come to the podium, and the contestant next to us had brought this puzzle with him to solve as preparation. He finished it about ten minutes before the start of Puzzle 7, and we started talking about it together - saying how much we enjoyed it - and just then Natan Last walked in front of us, heard us talking about the puzzle, and stopped to chat. That's just how it is here. Our constructing heroes are all around us, and they're all really nice people!


  1. 60:03 (FWOE)
    I, too, loved this puzzle. A rebus with a trick...very nice. As you can see, though, it took me just slightly longer than I like for a Sunday offering; my preference is between 45 and 60 minutes, and this was three seconds over. Plus, I made an error at the ADA/ADONAI cross, guessing an "n" there. I'd never heard the term INBOXZERO, but that's what I do all day long, so I'll start using it. Sue says she needs ALONETIME, too. I don't seem to need any. Nice that Tina FEY and CATE Blanchett are both in the grid. I thought that the clue for ABETS (99D Looks out for?) may be the best I've seen for that tired bit of crosswordese. I'll accept LOGS, because it's probably used in a generic sense, but really, calculus uses the natural log (ln) with base e, not generally the log which is base 10 when written like that. Of course, logs can use any base, but those are the two most common, and ln is clearly far superior.

    1. Since you mention your preferred time for Sunday puzzles, I'll just mention that Puzzle #7 at the tournament is always a Sunday-sized grid, and this year I finished it in less than 22 minutes. I spoke with Howard Barkin (this year's winner) after the puzzle, and he said he finished it in under six. Fortunately, he also added that it was the fastest he had ever completed a 21x21 grid. I'd hate to think that 5-something was normal for anyone! :)

  2. I made a bunch of errors on this one, which I blame on my seriously sleep-deprived state this weekend. I had niBS instead of DUBS and gRAY (?) instead of FRAY. I love the theme, and definitely give it a thumbs up. Excellent that the rebus is always broken up across words in the phrases. Perhaps not that hard to do, given the high frequency with which those letters are used in the English language.

    Took me slightly longer than average as well.