Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dash it all

Francis Heaney, the co-creator (with Patrick Blindauer) of this crossword, strongly suggests that you get this puzzle from here rather than the usual New York Sun crossword page. I think this is good advice. I just wish he had given it before I finished the puzzle because I had a rough go with this one, folks.

It seems to me that this blogs' readership is higher on Monday and falls off all week as the puzzles get harder. If that's the case and I have fewer readers the harder the puzzles get, then I am probably talking to myself right now. And if that's the case, then I'm just going to put up illustrations that have nothing to do with the puzzle but which amuse me for one reason or another.

Not an easy puzzle is what I'm trying to say. I don't think it's going to be easy to just explain it, but here goes:

Three of the across clues are a series of numbers separated at seemingly-random intervals by a /. The Across Lite version that I solved had this explanation on the notepad: For 17-, 36-, and 54-Across, those numbers are supposed to look like in an acrostic puzzle, with blanks on top of them, but there's no way to do that in AcrossLite, so you have to add the blanks yourself. Slashes indicate breaks between words. Solving this puzzle without printing it out is not advised, which was not but so helpful to me, so I just dove in and started solving the puzzle without worrying about 17-,36-, and 54-Across. Even after I finished the puzzle I wasn't sure what to with the numbers or how I was supposed to turn this crossword into an acrostic. At first I thought each letter in the themed entries might have a number that could be entered into the clue-numbers. (I knew this was going to be awkward to explain.) So that in 17-Across, which turned out to be ON THE DOTTED LINE, the O in On would make #1 an O and #2 an N, et cetera. It became obvious pretty quickly that this wasn't going to work. For one thing there were 63 total numbers in the three clues, and only 45 letters (3 15-letter entries).

So that was no help. Neither was scratching my head and muttering mild blasphemies under my breath. What finally set me on the right track to solving this puzzle was good old serendipity. I happened to notice (after counting the 63 numbers) that the highest number on the grid (i.e. the first block in the final across entry) was 63, and Aha! maybe all you have to do is fill in the letters in the numbered squares. For example 1 Across was Singer with the #1 hit "To Sir With Love" All the boxes in the answer have numbers so that means #1 is an L, #2 is a U, #3 is an L, et cetera. And this turned out to be the right way to, Jeopardy-like, get the question after I already had the answer.
And that was the problem. There was a lot of work yet to be done after I had already solved the puzzle. There's a lot of grunt work involved in acrostics anyway, which is why I prefer to do them online where a lot of that is taken care of automatically, even though I refuse to solve crosswords that way. And the grunt work is especially annoying after you've reached your reward, i.e. solved the puzzle. Still, it's a pretty amazing piece of work and I can only imagine how many hours it took to put it together.

Other entries of interest:

5A: "____ Gold" (ULEE'S) What did crossword constructors do before this Peter Fonda movie? I know there were a lot more boats headed out of the wind, for one thing. (Now, that's a crossword joke, folks.)

10A: Happy workplace (MINE) also a Sneezy, Dopey and Doc workplace.

24A: Pen, e.g. (SWAN) More proof that it pays to read clues carefully. I thought it said Penn, e.g. and I had SEAN for the longest.

12D: Turned six? (NINE) Love those upside-down number clues.

52D: Losses that aren't counted (TKOS) Because a technical knockout does not require a fighter to be down for a 10-count.

Like obscure coaches? then this is your kind of puzzle: 14A: Ukranian soccer coach Blokhin (OLEG) 42A: Islanders head coach Nolan (TED)

58A: Creatures from Oz (ROOS)
I've read all the OZ books, and I know all about the Winkies and the Quadlings and the Munchkins and the Gillikins. But I don't know anybody within shouting distance of the Emerald City with only three letters, so I knew it had to be the other Oz.

60A: They end an engagement (I DOS)

11D: J. Paul Getty used one (INIT) The initial J. to be precise. Great clue.

27D: Use assembly language? (ORATE) I love crosswords with lots of question mark clues. This one had nine, plus a few more that probably should have had a question mark, so I loved it.

And I hope you love your weekend.


Howard B said...

Being a hockey fan, Ted Nolan was actually an answer that helped me break into that section. Of course, that other coach and just about any opera reference balance those out nicely, in the long run.
I can't begin to imagine how this puzzle was designed. Pretty amazing stuff. When I solve a so-so puzzle and think, "Hey, I can write one of these!", along comes something like this.

Since the long answers were all themed, you still have a shot of solving this by figuring out those answers without doing the acrostic, if that's not your thing. Of course, you miss out on the complete puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Sumo skiing man really made me laugh. Thanks for the fun write-up!


Norrin2 said...

I found that awhile back and was sort of planning to use it to illustrate ELAN (which is the name on his ski) but ELAN seems to have disappeared from crosswords lately.

Austin said...

Took me all day, but I finally finished it.

Whew, it was tough.

PS - Loved the Jesus YMCA.

campesite said...

I really enjoyed this puzzle--I was lucky and saw a note about printing out the PDF on Orange's site. Without the third source from the acrostic, I probably would not have been able to complete it. Also on Orange's blog you may have seen the "making of" post in the comments section from Francis Heaney.
I too laughed at the photos, particularly the YMCA Jesus.

Norrin2 said...

The name of that YMCA picture is "Three Guys Who Are Going to Hell."

Anonymous said...

Boy, you sure love your comic heros! My favorite pic was the "discount tent" but then I'm a sucker for corn. TG for your blog - couldn't figure out and didn't have the patience for the acrostic part of the puzzle. Favorite comment? "ULEE'S", boats and wind. Wondered what all the comments referred to about YMCA, until I checked the pic again - duh!
Thanks for a great job on a great puzzle.

Linda G said...

This was definitely the mother of all puzzles. I didn't start on it until I came home from work, and I didn't keep track of how long it took. Your link to the puzzle was extremely helpful, although I don't think I'd have figured out the acrostic without your help.

BTW, loved your blog on the stamps. Have to admit, though, that I'm unfamiliar with most of them. I'll buy the stamps your honor.