Sunday, March 30, 2008

Monday, March 31 - Jeff Armstrong

Another unfamiliar name on the byline...whether or not it's a debut, Jeff Armstrong has turned out a better-than-decent Monday puzzle.

The theme is revealed at 36A: Word that can precede each half of the answers to each of the eight starred clues (air).

It's something when that works with the first or second half of a long theme answer. It's something else when the word can precede both halves of...what? Is it a compound word? Whatever...the theme answers are:

18A: *Sci-fi barrier (forcefield).

20A: *Newspaper article lead-in (dateline)...for the second time in just a few days.

28A: *When the curtain goes up (showtime).

41A: *Wrestling move that puts an arm around someone's neck (headlock). I am so not into wrestling. I definitely wouldn't want to be the guy who's on the receiving end of this.

50A: *Secret communication location (maildrop).

54A: *Mars Pathfinder, for one (spacecraft).

4D: *Diamond game (baseball).

37D: *Indy 500 venue (speedway).

There's a bit of standard crossword fare in here...including oater, alot, esc, ogle, PSAT and apse. Because it's Monday, they're all clued pretty much the way we usually see them. But 5A: Group of eight musicians (octet) is a more straightforward clue than I ever remember seeing. I'm wondering if it's usually a late-week word. Rather than challenge JimH to find out for me, I went to his site and looked for myself. Octet has been in the puzzle 40 times...including some Mondays with a very similar clue. One of my favorites is [Wedding band, maybe] of the tougher clues is [Noted Schubert piece in F major]. I got this picture from Google and thought it was interesting, so I followed it to this guy's blog.

Favorite answers include 23A: Big name in audio equipment (Bose), 25A: Result of a belly flop (splash), 9D: Golfer's opening drive (tee shot), 26D: Blender setting (puree), 27D: South American wool source (llama) this the sweetest face you've ever seen, 29D: Actor and rockabilly crooner Chris (Isaak), 30D: Three-card hustle (Monte), 39D: "Yikes!" (Holy Cow!), 42D: Business that may have gone boom and then bust in the '90s (dot com) and 44D: __ d' (Maitre).

The last comment I received on Sunday's puzzle was from Alan. After the obligatory small talk, he cut to the chase. "Never, never, never leave us again." Isn't that sweet?

Here's the grid...

...and I'll see you tomorrow.

Linda G


wendy said...

Chris Isaak - love that guy! Such a great voice and he had a wonderful sitcom on SHOWTIME, actually, for a few years that was hilarious, centered around his band. I miss him. The last time I saw him he was doing something for Katrina relief on TV.

I did like the puzzle's construction even with all the crosswordese. LLAMA is another word Karma needs to give us a pithy pointer on; I had Laama to start with. Of course it looks wrong horizontally, but not necessarily vertically.

Thought it was funny that Italy's "capital" this time wasn't about money then later in the puzzle we're asked about the pre-euro currency for Italy. Clev-ah!!

Glad OGLE wasn't clued as it sometimes is, referring to some sort of seductive glance.

And anytime SLOTH is an answer, as well as OKRA, I enjoy! RAH!

One thing I need to look up at Jim's - how often Regarding's answer is AS TO vs. IN RE.

But it's way past my bedtime so I'll defer.

Anonymous said...

I liked it that the theme went the extra mile to have both halves of the answers work with "air". Nice.

Good diversion during John Adams on HBO. Rather than time myself vs. 4xOrange, I try to finish the puzzle during the long segments of Giamatti looking lost and sideways, and various countrymen trying to clue him in, with a variety of glances, nods, and winks, as to what his next action should be, which seems to comprise a good 6 minutes or so of each episode.

Last Chris Isaak sighting: "Fire, Walk With Me" (the Twin Peaks prequel), where his character was attempting to come up with a handy way to remember how to spell "Isaak".

Anonymous said...

Linda & All - Came across this article in yesterday's Parade Magazine. The Saturday finish time makes me think that I am mentally challenged! - Norman

NEWSMAKERS Puzzle Master
Tyler Hinman, a 23-year-old from Chicago, took first place at the 31st annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for his fourth straight win. PARADE asked Hinman about his way with words.

How do you prepare for the tournament?
There’s really no way to prepare for the level of difficulty—you’re going to get it or you’re not. So it’s a question of getting your speed up. I usually get a book of big, easy puzzles and practice doing each one at a steady pace throughout.

So how long does it usually take you to finish a New York Times puzzle?
Some days everything is clicking really well. A couple of Saturdays ago, I did [a puzzle] on the computer in three minutes, seven seconds. But the Friday before that, I got beat up pretty good. It took me about eight-and-a-half minutes.

What’s your strategy?
I start with 1 Across, but I’m quick to move on if I don’t know it. Then I fill in clues where I already have letters placed, ideally first letters.

How has your mastery of puzzles affected other parts of your life?
There’s now a Tyler Hinman Fan Club—90 members strong—and I have more than 1000 friends on Facebook.

wendy said...

Oh yeah, I saw that Tyler thing ... pretty funny. You've hit the big time when Parade gloms onto you ... ;)

I *just* realized, per my comment last night about C ISAAK's show having aired on SHOWTIME - his name intersects with SHOWTIME in the puzzle!!! Now that's elegant. I wonder if it was deliberate ...

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the "speed" thing with crosswords -- does it mean that faster is smarter?

Linda G said...

Norman, you're definitely not mentally challenged. You're just not Tyler Hinman.

Anonymous, sure, fast can mean some ways. I'm far too random to follow a grid from one number to the next. I'm just all over the place...whatever clue catches my eye. But that doesn't mean I'm not smart. The fact that you (and most others) can't duplicate Tyler's time (or anyone else's) doesn't mean than you aren't. Some of us just solve for the pure pleasure of solving.

In anything, practice makes perfect. I can accurately type 125 words a minute. My husband, a CPA for 35 years, can't type that fast...but he's pretty quick (and accurate) on even the most complicated tax returns.

Isn't it great that we all have different gifts and interests?

Anonymous said...

@anon re. speed -- For me, speed became interesting when the Monday to Wednesday puzzles became easy (for me). Added to the challenge. The self-challenge of speed seems very important to some people. After determining where I fit, speed wise, I sort of lost interest in it. My doctor gave me just 25 years left to live, and one can only improve so much in a quarter century. I just enjoy the puzzles now, and enjoy the Thursday to Saturday ones much more than the early week ones. A blog like Linda G's adds to my enjoyment of the puzzle, regardless of the degree of difficulty, as does reading the comments of other puzzle-solvers. In the tournament, both speed and accuracy count, so in that world, speed would be just one, important, component of smart. But who knows, perhaps very smart people don't spend time on daily diversions.

Anonymous said...

Belated thanks for the comments on my puzzle! It's not my first published crossword, but it is a NYT debut for me.

Wendy: Yours is the first comment I've seen that picked up on the SHOWTIME and ISAAK intersection. I'm glad you spotted it! I can't honestly say that I did it intentionally -- ISAAK was the only thing that allowed for a decent fill in the SE section -- but I *loved* the synchronicity of it.