Saturday, June 1, 2019

Saturday, June 1, 2019, Ari Richter


I have a philosophical question.

I take pride in my fast solving skills. A lot of that is simply practice, however. We've been doing this crossword daily for the last six or seven years, and the more you see, the more you get a sense for without thinking too deeply. For example, 2D: Some first-years after undergrad (ONELS) - I entered this with no crosses today.

As further evidence of this, when I look back at, say early 2015, I find my Saturday times run from 20 minutes up to 36 minutes (for this puzzle: That grid is a tough one, to be certain, but I feel certain I would beat it in under 15 now.

Which leads me to my question: are we "ordinary people who enjoy doing crosswords" anymore? I think I would have astonished myself to think I could complete a Saturday NYT crossword in under seven minutes some years ago. The other possibility is that the puzzle has gotten easier; I definitely think they've gotten smoother.

So, to get back on track, today's puzzle is yet again a lovely smooth themeless. I don't love ASHPIT or SIMONES (a plural of a name is always a disappointment in my book). But otherwise I don't have any real complaints.

Meanwhile, BLANKETHOG is an immediate winner, especially right above SLEEPAPNEA. 40A: They're spotted at fire stations (DALMATIANS) is brilliant, a non-QMC that has just the right twist of deception. Another excellent non-QMC clue came at 11A: Takes heat from (UNARMS).

Of course, I loved the SW section, starting at 26A: Winner of the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in N.F.L. history (16 total points) (PATRIOT). That just happened this year, for those who are not as into sports as I am. Then, there was the wonderful way 26D: Turnovers, e.g. (PASTRIES) played on the solver who had gotten 26A easily. Not the type of turnover you see in football, but the kind you get in the kitchen. And then to top of the Beantown feel, 39A: Boston skyscraper, with "the" (PRU).

Nice Saturday.

- Colum

P.S. - It's a debut puzzle! Congratulations, Mr. Richter!


  1. 9:20

    Excellent point about ONELS, which I, too, entered without crosses - and yes, a sub-ten Saturday would have been unthinkable to me, too, back five or six years ago. I know I could find Saturday solve times over an hour from back when we started this thing.

    But if we were, six or seven years ago, ordinary people who enjoyed doing crosswords, what, aside from solve times, has changed? I certainly still feel like an ordinary person who enjoys doing crosswords. But do I enjoy them slightly less now that the challenge has been diminished? I remember Howard Barkin telling me once how he wished he could go back to the leisurely solve - the kind we all remember fondly - passing the clipboard back and forth, discussing various ideas...

    To be sure, there are still puzzles that give me much more trouble than this one did. And if constructors wanted to, they could create puzzles I could not solve. But that wouldn't be any better, certainly, than puzzles that were slightly easier...

    Oh, I don't know. So we've gotten faster. Isn't that somewhat interesting too, and maybe even motivational for other ordinary people who enjoy doing crosswords?

  2. 32:29 and a whole tone of Es!
    Well, that's some, do I get to count myself as an anomaly? I have been solving the Sat puzzle nearly every week since 1996 - and all I can say is that some weeks, I can actually solve it! In 1996, I had grids that I couldn't even fill in one single word!
    I do think they have gotten easier, though. There are far fewer abstruse geographical entries, for example. But, like this puzzle, if one isn't on the right wave length - or watching TV like I was - some things refuse to all into place. "Ryeseed", "Dalton", and "Ramses" are 3 that gave me fits and that I gave up on - another day, another puzzle, I would have filled them right in!
    But, I am aware of some tricks - Hot wheels? had me immediately thinking of "Stolen...." and I filled in "Sleep Apnea" without those pesky crossings!
    BTW - ONELS took me several passes through the clues to remember!
    Thanks for the puzzle and the comments!

  3. 17:13
    I'm getting faster, but not as quickly as Colum or Horace, since I've been solving these for a few years now, also. However, I'm quite content with this solve, and really enjoy these extremely smooth puzzles much more than one filled with obscure trivia, for example, as opposed to excellent cluing of ordinary words or phrases. ONELS went in fairly quickly, but I needed two crosses (BONDS and UNARMS) to get it. MASHEDPEAS reminds me of the excellent meal I had in "England" that featured fish 'n' chips, Guinness and mushy peas. No SYRAH or PASTRIES, sadly, but I GORGEd nonetheless.