Thursday, 1/19/12

Fireball 5:15 
NYT 3:18 
LAT 5:01 (Neville) 
CS 6:43 (Sam) 
BEQ 8:45 (Matt) 
Tausig 5:22 (pannonica) 

If you’re near Killingworth, Connecticut, Jan O’Sullivan (who comments here as “danjan”) has organized a local crossword tournament at the Killingworth Library this Sunday afternoon. Details here.

Also, the weekend after this one is when the grand Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest takes place. Terrific line-up of Saturday workshops, plus assorted puzzle tournaments (crosswords, sudoku, cryptics—adults and kids) on Sunday the 29th.

Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller’s New York Times crossword

NY Times crossword solution, 1 19 12

Cute theme! I happen to be a big fan of the colorful synonyms for “to-do” (many of which appear in this puzzle) and for “nonsense” (tommyrot, malarkey, poppycock, balderdash). You would be hard pressed to find a livelier group of words on any other thesaurus pages. The elegant touch here is that TO-DO LIST is used to tied the various to-dos together: BROUHAHA, HOO-HAH (also spelled hoo-ha), HOOPLA, HURLYBURLY, COMMOTION, HULLABALOO, and KERFUFFLE.

Now, what’s this puzzle doing on a Thursday when it’s no harder than a Wednesday puzzle? Or is it a Thursday-difficulty puzzle fair and square to anyone who hasn’t embraced the same thesaurus entry I love so much? If you don’t have these synonyms in the forefront of your mind, I could see how the grid design would stymie you. It’s basically four smaller puzzles linked by a handful of answers in the middle.

Plenty of sparkle throughout the grid, which has a themeless-caliber word count of 72 and lots of long answers. A HANDFUL, settle an OLD SCORE, OAXACA, and a movie title (NO ESCAPE) join the theme answers in the zippy department. I have grown quite fond of George TAKEI in his internet celebrity in the last year or two, and just now “liked” his Facebook page so I will see the funny pictures he posts even if my friends don’t repost them.

Less exciting are answers such as ANA, LOC, SLYS, KSU, LMN, YMA, and IMRE. But you know what? I forgive Derek and Sarah for those because we also got KERFFUFLE and HULLABALOO and BROUHAHA. Four stars.

Peter Gordon’s Fireball crossword, “Themeless 46″

Fireball 3(1) solution, 1 19 12

It’s Fireball season again! If you want to subscribe, visit Peter’s website. $18 for 45 puzzles this year, specializing in themeless and hard themed puzzles.

This one’s a themeless, and Peter kicks off the year with VAJAZZLING at 1-Across. I can’t help thinking the practice has fallen by the wayside, but the word remains hilarious. (Still waiting for the phallic equivalent. Coinages, anyone? And no, “Erechtheum” is out.)

Highlights:

  • 17a. VIETNAM VET is fully in the language, and yet how often does this term appear in crosswords? I dedicate 17-Across to my Uncle Andy, who I believe still has shrapnel from Nam inside his body.
  • 25a. NETROOTS, fill I’ve never seen in a puzzle before but familiar to me from non-crossword blog reading.
  • 47a. [Major sponsor] sounds so generic, but the PGA TOUR sponsors many of golf’s major tournaments.
  • 66a. Love the clue for bottom-row-friendly answer ESSAY TESTS: [They cause pads to be filled during some periods]. I don’t know that I’d call a blue book a “pad,” but then I also don’t know that I’d choose blue liquid as a TV commercial stand-in for menstrual blood. Nice echo of blueness here.
  • 3d. J. PETERMAN! Best loved for the fictionalized version Elaine Benes worked at on Seinfeld.
  • 50d. [Punch-out tool?] is the LADLE you scoop punch out of the punch bowl with.
  • 62d. [Bottom lines, perhaps?] are the inked lines on your bum, if you have an ass tattoo. (Does Donald Rumsfeld have an ass tattoo of the Princeton tiger or am I misremembering?) Ergo: TAT.

70 words, 30 blocks. Sam Donaldson likes to count those things when he blogs the themeless CrosSynergy “Sunday Challenge.” Now what do I do with these numbers?

Four stars. Welcome back to the Fireball beat, Peter!

Updated Thursday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Fashionable Footwear” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy / Washington Post crossword solution, January 19

Today’s puzzle has a lot of sole. It re-imagines five common expressions as new varieties of shoes:

  • 17-Across: WATER PUMPS don’t just have to be helpful tools, you know. They can also serve as [Shoes for a cruise?]. I like the rhyme scheme in the clue.
  • 23-Across: The [Shoes for riding Amtrak?] took a while for me to figure out because I have never heard of RAILROAD FLATS. My dictionary defines a railroad flat as “an apartment in which the rooms are connected in a line.” Even with the definition, I’m not sure that I have ever been inside of one. Are they common in a part of the country I haven’t visited much?
  • 40-Across: I suppose DIVING PLATFORMS would be suitable [Shoes for scubaing?], but they would have to be clunky and hard to swim with what with all that concrete. More importantly, isn’t the spelling of “scubaing” weird? I keep wanting it to rhyme with “she-bang.” But maybe that’s just because I like the word “she-bang.” She bang, he bang, we bang. I bang, you bang, they bang. (You get the reference, right?) If not, try this.
  • 51-Across: STUBBORN MULES aren’t just [Shoes that are hard to get on and off?]. Wearing them will also make you feel like an ass.
  • 63-Across: SAND WEDGES are both the club I use most in a typical round of golf (sigh) and [Shoes for the desert?].

I think I would love the puzzle more if I had a shoe fetish a la Carrie Bradshaw. “Mules” and “wedges” just aren’t in my footwear vocabulary. But it’s not the puzzle’s fault that said vocabulary is pretty much limited to “sneaker,” “loafer,” “slipper,” and “flip-flops.” And it wasn’t the shoe terms that slowed me down as much as the northeast corner. I knew the answer to [Obsessed over] was __ED ON, but since I was struggling with the FLATS on Amtrak, it took a long time to finally get DWELLED ON. I kept wanting LIRA instead of LIRE as the [Old Italian loot], so trying to figure out the answer to [Yields] ending in -AS instead of -ES sucked up a good 40 or 50 seconds. (The answer’s CEDES. Tricky little clue, because I was thinking of “yields” as “produces” or “blooms.”) I had a hunch the [Platter by The Platters, e.g.] was a DISC, but the D threw me as the start of the answer to [Obsessed over]. It wasn’t until I finally got WOKE as the answer to [Roused] that it all fell into place.

Despite my struggles, there was much that I enjoyed. MINI BIKES and GREASE GUN were my favorites, though I’m not the least bit mechanical or into biking. There was more than the usual amount of Crosswordese, however. NEUT, IST, EFF, EDEMA, ITALO Calvino, HOAR, OPP, SHU, OTIC, SSTS, STRIA, and REATA all make appearances.

I know ENID as both an Oklahoma city and one of the best songs from the Barenaked Ladies, but not as [Geraint's love]. Hmm, their names anagram to DINE and TEARING. Their dates must start well but end on bad terms.

Dan Gagliardo & C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 19 12

Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle solution, 1 19 12

Let’s get right to this puzzle – no playing around here.

  • 17a. [Nuts] – PLAIN CRAZY
  • 25a. [Switching device] - POWER RELAY
  • 37a. [Keeps at it] – PLUGS AWAY
  • 50a. ["We want you here"] - PLEASE STAY
  • 60a. [Dally, and a literal hint to  17-, 25-, 37-Across] - PLAY AROUND

We’ve seen a lot of this type of theme; there’s not that much innovation here, but it’s just a crossword puzzle. I think we’ll live. Nice execution with the three potential splits each demonstrated; the perfect split is shown twice.

I like the opportunity afforded by the long spaces in the corners, and I APPROVE of entries like TEST LAB and ZILLION.  [Effervesced] is a fun word for FIZZED, which is fun in and of itself. DRY LAND makes more sense than DR. KLAND for [Terra firma]; remembering the difference between YEATS and KEATS is rather helpful. I’LL BET those of you taking the Jeopardy! online test this week reviewed your poets and poetry, though. Why can’t the word RAGOUT be spelled like it sounds? Oh yeah, that’s a trademark.

Could someone in the comments explain to me why 1a. [Fair color?] is a clue for AZURE? I tried to check on Wikipedia, but you know how that goes. Your help is appreciated!

Brendan Quigley’s blog crossword, “Right Angles”—Matt Gaffney’s review

BEQ 403 solution

Brendan’s four theme entries take downward right angles in the grid, each one with the RIGHT itself forming the turn at the G (your clue numbers may vary, depending on the puzzle format you used):

  • 20a. [Sane] = IN ONE’S RIGHT MIND
  • 9d. [Treating in a morally just fashion] = DOING RIGHT BY
  • 37a. ["One sec"] = BE RIGHT THERE
  • 29d. [Political talk show fodder] = LEFT/RIGHT DEBATE (I had DIVIDE here instead of debate for a while)

Six observations:

  1. This is a nice twist on the angled-entry idea, and the symmetry of the themers is another elegant touch.
  2. Good fill as well: TAJ MAHALMERMAIDI CONCEDEDE NADA, and FBI/RBI crossing in the center.
  3. At 3d, Brendan reveals that his favorite Beatles album is REVOLVER. Mine is Abbey Road. Leave yours in comments!
  4. Don’t overlook the two 5×5 boxes in the SW and NE corners. Outstanding.
  5. Speaking of which, I botched the upper-right corner in this one, putting STRADS and RENTER where AMATIS and ROOMER should’ve been. Took me about 2 minutes just to untangle that, since those two crossing sixers looked uncontroversially correct. Finally just erased the whole corner and started over with REGENT, and then it fell quickly.
  6. Funny clue for 52a. I won’t sully the pages of Crossword Fiend by typing it out, though.

Thanks for the puzzle, BEQ, and do the right thing today, everyone!

Ben Tausig’s Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, “Campaign Records” — pannonica’s review

Ink Well crossword • 1 20 12 • "Campaign Records" • Tausig • solution

SWOOSIE!

[murmur, murmur]

What? I have to write a longer review than that? All right.

This week, we get three punned musical albums—each utilizing two entries—incorporating contenders for the Republication presidential nomination.

  • 17a. [With 62-Across, GOP candidate's collaboration with the Beastie Boys?] RON PAUL’S BOUTIQUE (Paul’s Boutique – The Beastie Boys (1989)).
  • 23a. [With 31-Across, former GOP candidate's kitschy electronic reworking of classical music?] SWITCHED ON BACHMANN (Switched on Bach — Wendy Carlos (1968)).
  • 44a. [With 51-Across, GOP candidate's album featuring the single "In Da Country Club"?] GINGRICH OR DIE TRYIN’ (Get Rich or Die Tryin’ — 50 Cent (2002)).

I. Did. Not. Like. The. Theme.

Far too incoherent for my taste.

  1. One candidate is no longer in the race, Bachmann dropped out on 4 January. I realize that there are publishing deadlines, but I believe the turnaround for an independent weekly is pretty fast. My guess is the puzzle was written a while ago and the clue was recently modified, inserting “former” into the clue. If the overall quality of the theme execution were stronger, I’d understand.
  2. Two of the albums are rap albums, one is classical-ish. All three should either be of the same genre or of completely different genres. The weighted imbalance is unappealing.
  3. One of the punny titles involves a significant alteration of the original title, in both pronunciation and spelling: Get Rich → Gingrich. The other two merely involve the addition of letters. Even so, they diverge in that one adds a new word (Ron) and the other appends letters to an existing word (-mann). The mechanics are all over the place.

The ballast fill was serviceable, but not remarkable. Certainly not enough to compensate for the unsatisfying theme. For every ARMS RACE, BEAN CURD, and RUBRIC, there are plenty of IN ANs, DIECIs, and DEHORNs.

On the other hand, SWOOSIE Kurtz has pride of place as the central across entry, so… 12 stars.

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47 Responses to Thursday, 1/19/12

  1. arthur118 says:

    The Princeton tiger “ass tattoo” belongs to George Shultz, Secy. of State in the Reagan administration.

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Thank you, Arthur! I knew someone would know exactly what I was talking about.

  3. D. Namein says:

    I don’t know about Shultz’s ass tattoo, but notice how effective it is as a piece of “black” (i.e., unsourced) propaganda: it makes the target look foolish, and the only way he could disprove it is to release photographs of his ass. Yet it rings true, as black propaganda is designed to, since the average person thinks, oh, he went to Princeton, that’s why he has the tiger tattoo on his ass!

  4. D. Namein says:

    PS — Shultz, as all political people are, is a piece of crap. But you’ve got to be pretty naive to think he has a tattoo of a tiger on his ass.

  5. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Well, the folks at Princeton seem to think a signed photo of Shultz’s tiger tattoo exists: http://www.princeton.edu/paw/columns/inky/inky_021302.html. And Shultz doesn’t deny (or confirm) it, so he apparently doesn’t think the story makes him look foolish: http://www.answers.com/topic/george-p-shultz

  6. D. Namein says:

    There you have it! A tiger tattoo on his ass.

  7. bob stigger says:

    The PGA Tour doesn’t sponsor any of the four major golf championships (Masters, US Open, British Open, PGA — the latter is sponsored by the PGA not the PGA Tour, which is a different organization).

  8. Bruce N. Morton says:

    re Fireball:

    The answer to 1a {Decoration for privates} is VAJAZZLING.

    What the %&^ does that mean? (I was thinking of something in the “fig leaf” realm.)

    Bruce

  9. Jeanie says:

    Hello. Forgive me if I’m not posting this in the appropriate place. I am just beginning to train for the ACPT. I was a rookie in 2010 and placed 30th among rookies. What kind of timer is recommended? Also, do solvers save their puzzles or somehow keep a record of their times? Thank you so much for any help you can offer! :-)

  10. Bruce N. Morton says:

    I guess it’s cute–but–I dunno. Still not sure I get the “to do” theme. I was thinking that the Wildcats are the University of Kentucky, not KSU, but is (are?) Kansas State also the Wildcats? (also Villanova). Why no tabbies? I guess my earlier “fig leaf” reference was somewhat in the right…er….ballpark.

    Bruce

  11. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Will I get in trouble for that????

  12. Cyrano says:

    I also have a question about the ACPT and have been hesitant to ask it, but since Jeanie has already risked posting in an inappropriate place, I’m going to follow her brave lead. I have never done the tournament — or any tourney for that matter — and was planning on doing this year’s (I can walk to the hotel) and now am having second-thoughts. I don’t have delusions of cracking the top XXX solvers or anything, but I guess I don’t have a good feel for the range of solvers that attend. I don’t really want to finish last, although I guess someone has to. I do all the puzzles blogged here, I finish them all in what I generally feel are fairly reasonable times, 2 to 4 times Amy’s-time depending on the puzzle, ok sometimes 6 times Amy’s-time, but I guess I don’t even know what is reasonable. Who – besides the cream of the xword-world – goes to ACPT? And again, sorry if this has been discussed to death in previous years.

  13. Jan (danjan) says:

    Thanks for the plug on the Killingworth Library Tournament!
    @Cyrano – I would encourage you to go to the ACPT. There is a huge range of solving ability, and from what you describe, I think you’d have a shot at placing pretty well in the rookie category, and in the upper half of all contestants. No guarantees, but that’s my best guess. I knew of the tournament for years before I dared to attend, and now regret putting it off a bit. What helped me the most was attending a local tournament (no kidding, not a shameless plug) and doing puzzles from past tournaments (there are some available in book form). I use a digital kitchen timer, but I don’t go into timing mode until February. I could go on about all the wonderful, smart, engaging people I’ve met…… Go for it!

  14. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Cyrano: The ACPT is many things to many people. What solvers of every level share there, however, is a love of crosswords and an appreciation for all the other smart and interesting people who do puzzles too. If you’re not in contention for a trophy, the purpose is to have fun, do cool tournament puzzles, and spend a congenial weekend with your “lost tribe.” Generally, you needn’t worry about placing last unless you skip some of the puzzles entirely–get at least one word right in each puzzle, and you’re pretty much guaranteed not to place last! Many people just try to improve their performance from year to year, or place higher than a rival solver.

    @Jeanie: Solvers come in all kinds. Some keep obsessive logs of their solving times by day of the week and by constructor. Some time themselves when speed-solving but don’t keep the data. (Stopwatches and timers of all sorts work fine.) Some save stacks of puzzles, some don’t. In general, people who solve a lot of puzzles online are advised to solve more on paper in the weeks leading up to the ACPT, to get those reflexes down. Remember to check your crossings, even when the crossing word looks plausible. Provided that ACPT scoring hasn’t changed this year, if you’re finishing a tournament puzzle and there’s still plenty of time left before the clock flips over to the next minute, it’s worthwhile to check your answers during that time.

  15. Howard B says:

    Enjoyed the Times today, just a crazy little scavenger hunt uncovering all those TODO synonyms. Good stuff!
    —-
    Re:ACPT – I still think it’s as much about the community than competition. If you like to compare times and compete, that’s great. But if you want to meet the people who construct, edit, post on blogs, and just enjoy solving these things in person, then that’s the place to be. Besides, it’s a fun, welcoming group that talks about much more than puzzling. I was surprised to learn this my first time there, and it’s what brought me back.

    But the beauty of it is even if you sat with a blank grid on every puzzle (unlikely – if you solve daily, you will definitely not finish last), the environment there is such that people don’t judge you based on placement. It’s just not that kind of crowd. It kind of reaffirms my faith in people each year, to sound a little bit ridiculous. If someone does ask how you’re doing, and you don’t want to say, you can hedge on it – “Not bad…” or “I got at least one letter right”… That’s what I do if I don’t want to be specific :).

    Go, talk to people, be surprised and have fun. Glad I tried it and surprised myself.

  16. Howard B says:

    @Jeanie: I’d recommend a simple digital stopwatch on paper, but you can even mark start/end times on an analog clock with a second hand in a pinch, if that’s what’s available. Personally, I’ll time myself when using applets or AcrossLite because it has a timer, but I don’t go out of my way to do so. I like to solve both timed and untimed, and I do not generally time myself outside of computer solving.

    Other solvers have different takes on it; some fastidiously record everything for their own knowledge and improvement. Me, I only use it now as a tool to gauge relative puzzle difficulty, but this is only useful once you’ve done enough similar puzzles to know your own time ranges per puzzle and day. Nice for gauging steady improvement as well, if you’re so inclined. Remember, it takes much time and practice though, like anything else. It’s up to you.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Neville–think of: fair weather= blue skies

  18. Jeffrey says:

    Yes, go to the ACPT and don’t worry about how well you do. Out of nearly 700 contestants, the number who have a chance to win is about 10.

    quick quiz – how many people have made the final 3 at the ACPT in 34 years? (34 *3 = 102 slots)

    Only 30! And 9 of last year’s top 10 had been previous top 3 finishers. It is a very select group.

    If you haven’t made the A finals before and your name isn’t Dave Tuller, David Plotkin, Amy Reynaldo, Sam Donaldson or Joon Pahk, I will guarantee you won’t make the A final.

    Only 5 people (A 1-3, B winner and Rookie winner) win a prize worth more than the registration fee. So the rest of us must be going for fun.

    If you want to simulate tournament conditions, use an electronic stopwatch that counts backwards.

  19. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Cyrano,

    I had many of the same qualms you express when I first attended the Tournament many years ago (though I have not returned during the last few.) Believe me, the tournament does not consist of 600 Amys, Tylers, Dans, Howards, Ellens, Annes, Trips, etc. or even 600 of the range among the posters here.) I agree with those who say that the main point is the sense of community, but I too am competitive enough to have fears about being at the bottom of the heap. I can almost assure you, just based on your posts here, that although you will probably not be top 10%, you will have a respectable finish which will not embarrass you. A time twice that of the top solvers is competitive, and is likely to put you in or near the top quarter. My guess is that you and I are roughly comparable solvers, and I generally finish at the bottom of the top 1/4–or not quite–top 1/3. My bete noire–the greatest gap between me and the stars–is actually *easy* puzzles. I am occasionally closer to the top times in difficult Fris. and Sats. I simply cannot do a puzzle, no matter how easy, faster than the 4:40 – 5:00 mark. I am utterly baffled by how anyone can cut that in half. I will set a stopwatch, and have what feels like a perfect puzzle–no hesitations, no reading clues twice, writing what seems continuously, and I look up and it’s 4:41, 4:47, 5:02, whatever. Anything much faster than that to me is just sorcery. I wonder if I have some systematic inefficient habits, but at this point I can’t imagine doing anything much differently.

    Bruce

  20. Gareth says:

    A synonym list theme can still be a lot of fun – like you say this set is particularly lively! Then I got to the revealer: really clever stuff! Also loved the elegant clue for TOENAILS. Oh and last time when ETSY appeared I guessed right, tried EtsY again, but this time it was EBAY!!

  21. Tuning Spork says:

    @Cyrano

    You sound like you’re somewhere around my speed solving level. My first tournament was a year-and-a-half ago, at Lollapuzzula 3. I was curious about where I might finish, and finished just above 50% in the “local division” (not the super speedsters, generally), but just below 50% overall.

    My first ACPT was last year. Hoping to finish in the top 50%, I finished 234th out of 755. And that’s one error, each, on two of the puzzles, and about 30% of puzzle #5 either blank or wrong. The caliber of solvers in the room range from the spooky mad skills of Dan Feyer to the 9-year-old who came along with his mom or dad just to have fun.

    Oh, and everyone is cool, albiet in a somewhat nerdy sort of way. :-D

  22. joon says:

    cyrano: do come to ACPT, and don’t worry about people being faster than you. you won’t embarrass yourself and the whole weekend is a lot of fun.

    jeanie: hi, fancy seeing you here. :)

    loved the TO-DO LIST theme! those are indeed great words. i only wish FOOFARAW had made the cut, but with the themers appearing in elegantly intersecting pairs, that wasn’t possible.

    the FB smacked me around a little bit. i don’t remember one part of it taking a particularly long time, but the whole thing was pretty rough going. lovely puzzle, ultimately.

  23. Cyrano says:

    Thanks for all the encouragement/advice. I didn’t mean to come off as so concerned about speed, just more curious as to the solving demographic and whether people were actually by and large there to have fun. You have more than convinced me that they are and I will go fork over the e-money today.

    @ Bruce Morton: I have just recently (finally) broken the 4 minute mark on some “easy” ones (although these have been in AcrossLite). My real Achilles’ heel lately (and frankly the reason for my ACPT hesitation) is that I seem to be getting stupider. I will be steadily moving through a mid- to late-week puzzle and get one corner where I just brain freeze completely and almost come to a total halt. I stare and stare and stare and lose focus and end up doubling, tripling my whole time there. And feeling like an idiot when I get VAJAZZLING because really, who doesn’t know that.

  24. Sam Donaldson says:

    Actually, I can guarantee you won’t make the A Division final even if your name is Sam Donaldson. After three tournaments, I’m firmly ensconced in the D Division. My only goal each year is to finish all of the puzzles accurately within the allotted time. (A lofty goal indeed, as only 34 people did it last year.) But it’s enough if I do a little better than last year. In that sense, the only “competition” at the ACPT is with myself. It’s like a round of golf with friends–I happily cheer their accomplishments because how they do relative to me doesn’t matter. I care only that I do a little better than my last time out.

    Howard said it well–the friendly environs and supportive community always leave me buoyed, and that’s what keeps bringing me back. If you’re thinking of skipping just because you might embarrass yourself, worry not. No one will ask (or much care) how you did.

  25. Bruce N. Morton says:

    Cyrano–ME! Never heard of it. I left 1a with a hole, and just shrugged. I’m getting the gist of it now, but how do you pronounce it?

    Your comment about hitting a wall in a corner is far from unique to you; it’s shared with many of us–myself included. You’re not getting stupider, it’s part of the game. And as I say, you already have a faster overdrive gear than I do.

    Bruce

  26. Dan F says:

    I just wanted to get back to the ass-tattoo discussion. Amy, the Princeton Alumni Weekly article you linked to is a humor/satire column; the “author” is a pseudonym. Can you find any other evidence? (I remember hearing that it was Rumsfeld, and he was forced to get the tattoo in an initiation to a frat or eating club… but I think the whole thing is apocryphal.)

  27. MD Solver says:

    The second half of RONPAULSBOUTIQUE could have been random letters for me. I have no idea what a 50 Cent is. Curious to see if anyone else understood these.

  28. HH says:

    @Bruce:

    “My real Achilles’ heel lately … is that I seem to be getting stupider.”

    I believe this qualifies you to be an American.

  29. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @MD Solver: May I ask your age?

  30. Bruce N. Morton says:

    MD Solver–I didn’t see the puzzle you are referring to, but there is apparently some rapper called 50 cent, and that’s probably the reference. I know that only from puzzles.

    Bruce–former Ann Arundel county resident

  31. Jeffrey says:

    Just checking if you are reading, Sam.

  32. MD Solver says:

    @Amy: Never young enough, I suppose.

    Bruce: I was referring to the Tausig puzzle, and I gather now that he is a rapper. (50 Cent, not Tausig). Rap’s not a genre I know much about either way. Notice that I softened my comment today, after being duly reprimanded a few times in the past for complaining when certain puzzle themes were simply outside my areas of expertise, and when I probably would have been better off refraining from commenting at all. I do agree with Pannonica today, however, that having puns on one GOP candidate no longer in the race and another two who are kind of made everything feel topsy-turvy. Plus the puns are of a variety of kinds, which was hard.

    Can’t really think of any better answers myself, though.

  33. MD Solver says:

    The Fireball really threw me, as well. 1-Across was an absolute mystery, though I ended up doing fine from the crossings. I suppose VAJAZZLING is something soldiers do?

  34. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Ben sent the puzzle to his test-solvers a day or two before the Iowa caucuses, with the caveat that there was a risk that someone would drop out. I honestly didn’t think the theme would feel too dated a mere two weeks after Bachmann left the race, but it appears that the world has moved on without her.

    I didn’t understand the base phrase for RON PAUL’S BOUTIQUE—in my head, I figured it might be Sean Paul’s Boutique. When it comes to music-related clues in puzzles by Ben T., Brendan Quigley, or Francis Heaney, I fully expect to have no idea who the bands are or what their song/album titles are. (With an 11-year-old in the house, I have a better shot at knowing the top-40 artists than the arcane indie performers Ben, BEQ, and Francis are partial to.) I have made peace with this.

  35. MD Solver says:

    Based on a Google search, PAULSBOUTIQUE seems to be an album by the Beastie Boys, who I mainly know from the “Illin’” controversy! Look at me, knowing obscure rappers.

  36. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Trust me, MD Solver: The Beastie Boys are anything but “obscure” in the rap world.

  37. MD Solver says:

    I have no choice but to trust you!

  38. Gareth says:

    4 Billboard number 1 albums over 3 decades suggested they’re pretty a list. I was lost in a sea of names I personally didn’t know around Switched on Bachmann, though the error I ended with turned out to be arl/rented.

  39. pannonica says:

    Did I not identify it adequately in the write-up?

    As I also said, I would have overlooked the Bachmann bit if the rest of the theme hadn’t been such a trainwreck.

  40. pannonica says:

    Okay, perhaps ‘trainwreck’ is an exaggeration.

  41. Bananarchy says:

    All of this ACPT talk is getting me jazzed! It’ll be my first time this year, and let me just say: to all of you worried about your performance or hesitant about going, rest assured you will most certainly destroy me and I’ll be traveling over 3500 kms to get there! At very least, it should be fun and enlightening to meet some fiend members/commenters and constructors.

  42. MD Solver says:

    What is it, if not a “trainwreck”? Derailment? Fender bender?

    You did identify it, I just missed it.

  43. Jeanie says:

    Thanks for your help, everyone. (Hi, Joon!) I plan on visiting daily.

  44. backbiter says:

    I have to agree with Brendan about “Revolver”. I love Beatles albums. However, there’s always a few songs on each I don’t particularly care for. Not with Revolver. Every song is a gem. And let’s face it the songwriting was really so good because of the drugs and Harrison’s sitar.

  45. Jeanie says:

    I don’t know if anyone is still reading the comments from this entry, but I’ll give it a try: Those of you who solve for speed, what do you do with clues that refer to another clue, like 17-across and many others in today’s Tausig puzzle? I’m tempted to skip them and try the other clues because they take so long to read, but I feel like I have to get back to them eventually.
    (Thanks.)

  46. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Jeanie, if it’s an easy puzzle and I can fill in the those answers without reading long or complicated clues, I will (unless it’s in a tournament setting, in which case it’s a good idea to check all the clues while solving).

    In the Tausig, those cross-referenced clues are just for two-part answers. When a puzzle isn’t Monday-easy, it certainly does help to understand how the theme works, which generally entails reading the theme answers’ clues.

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