Saturday, 1/31/09

NYT 4:00 ... LAT 3:39 ... CS 1:48 ... ND 4:55

Today's NY Times puzzles was definitely easier than yesterday's. Didn't really have any rough spots... ONTHESTAGE was a good early guess, but I didn't get back to the NW until everything else was finished. I was on a record pace for the Stumper, but got hung up in the NE because I didn't even try STANDARD for [Not automatic]. Too easy, I thought. Also should have remembered the most famous soliloquy from the Scottish Play. And Doug Peterson has another excellent themeless in the LAT - lots of fresh fill, and theater and baseball clues to make me happy.

Friday, 1/30/09

NYT 5:19 ... SUN 3:23 ... LAT 3:53 ... CS 2:17 ... CHE 2:15 ... WSJ 3:55 ... BEQ 3:26 ... MGWCC 5:46

Tough NYT by BEQ, I thought. Managed to muscle through everything but the northeast, which featured three ten-letter entries that I would never have gotten without crossings and guessing. Guessing at some downs gave me A-A-A at the end of the city name, and fortunately I recognized the city that would fit. Good thing I've seen AXOLOTL before somewhere - surely I have Orange to thank for blogging about it.

Had some trouble with the LAT - while the fill was easy enough, I couldn't grasp the correct way to pronounce the theme answers and had to do some guessing until I got it. Think I set a personal record on the Chronicle of Higher Ed. And holy moly you guys, the easy Wall Street Journal puzzle took me 3:55. Knew I was on a good pace but didn't think I would be under 4 minutes.

Late update: Gaffney's crossword isn't too hard, but the meta-puzzle certainly is. I haven't come up with one possible answer, let alone three, but I'm gonna try no-googling this one (until Monday, of course).

Thursday, 1/29/09

NYT 3:17 ... SUN 2:43 ... LAT 1:55 ... CS 2:27

I clicked "Done" on the applet at about 2:50, but it wasn't a typo: I had LEGALPROCESSION for the top theme answer instead of PROFESSION, left over from when I though it might be PROCEDURE(S). I generally like these "backwards" themes, but BAR cannot be defined as MUSICAL NOTATION. Not even close. Very happy with my times on the LAT (aided by a gimme Broadway theme answer) and Klahn's CS. Now if I can do tomorrow's LAT in 2 minutes or less, I will officially be frightened of myself.

Wednesday, 1/28/09

NYT 2:04 ... SUN 2:11 ... LAT 2:00 ... CS 1:53 ... BEQ 3:51

Tuesday, 1/27/09

NYT 2:01 ... SUN 2:27 ... LAT 1:48 ... CS 2:08 ... BT 3:16 ... TO 4:15

Starting to catch up today on the puzzles I managed to ignore over the weekend. My orchestra rehearsal last night went very well, and though I have plenty of work yet to do, the show (RAGTIME in Astoria, Queens) doesn't open until next weekend.

I know I've seen Peter Gordon's Sun theme (two Hitchcock movies = funny phrase) somewhere before, but I can't find it in a database... part of me thinks it was a Sunday, and part of me thinks it was in the early Sun. I'm probably all wrong.

Monday, 1/26/09

NYT 1:53 ... SUN 2:09 ... LAT 2:00 ... CS 1:47 ... JON 2:54 ... BEQ 2:12

Sunday, 1/25/09

NYT (p) 6:53 ... LAT 4:49 ... CS 2:30 ... BG 5:22 ... MR (p) 7:03 ... ND (p) 7:05 ... Acrostic 11:55

Saturday, 1/24/09

NYT 3:30 (?) ... LAT 4:12 ... CS 2:15 ... ND 6:50

Did the NYT in the applet, but didn't write down the time for future blogging. Pretty sure it was 3:30something...

Friday, 1/23/09

NYT 3:42 ... SUN 2:49 ... LAT 3:33 ... CS 1:40 ... CHE 3:28 ... WSJ 4:51 ... BEQ 5:54 ... MGWCC 5:04

I managed to make it over 24 hours without solving any crosswords, but on Friday night I couldn't resist doing the Times themelesses and Peter Gordon's Oscar-nominee puzzle. Had an easy time figuring out Gaffney's meta-puzzle, but it took me too long to actually come up with the solution.

Thursday, 1/22/09

NYT 3:55 ... SUN 2:36 ... LAT 2:28 ... CS 2:13

OK, definitely quitting tomorrow...

Wednesday, 1/21/09

NYT 2:32 ... SUN 3:20 ... LAT 2:36 ... CS 2:17 ... BT 2:51 ... TO 3:06

I may take a brief hiatus for the next few days... lots of real work to catch up on, and if I'm solving the daily puzzles, I'm also spending time on the blogs...

Tuesday, 1/20/09

NYT 2:31 ... SUN 2:29 ... LAT 1:45 ... CS 1:45 ...

Yet another Barackified NYT puzzle for Inauguration Day! I got distracted by all the cross-referenced clues and jumped to the bottom to confirm the Obama theme... but BARACKOBAMA didn't fit, and I stuck KYRA in for "Actress Sedgwick" instead of EDIE, so it could have gone faster.

And yet another double-shot of Blindauer in the Sun and CrosSynergy! Always love his CS puzzles because of all the theater-related clues and entries. I was going to complain about BASETEND and TESTBAND in the Sun, but hold up, those are theme entries. (I can still complain about UNWET, though.)

Monday, 1/19/09

NYT 1:49 ... SUN 1:37 ... LAT 1:52 ... CS 2:43 ... JON 3:10 ... BEQ 14:10*

I decided not to solve the BEQ as a diagramless... and then he goes and makes this one diagramless-only! So I took Joon's suggestion and solved in a blank Crossword Compiler grid. The puzzle is fine, but the joke at BEQ's site is worth it.

Sunday, 1/18/09

NYT (p) 8:35 ... LAT (p) 7:58 ... CS 2:05 ... BG 11/30 (?) 5:05 ... MR 6:27 ... ND (p) 6:56 ... Acrostic 6:45

Decided to go half-lazy, half-pencil, and add the Sunday Newsday (and time the NYT Acrostic). Spent the last minute of the NYT staring at the ALONE/OLE crossing - wanted something like AT ONE or AS ONE, couldn't see OLE for some reason (wanted OHO), and had to play the alphabet game.

New record for a Sunday Challenge - Paula Gamache's always seem to be the easiest. None of the BARACK puns in the Reagle came easily. Seems to be an error in the "litzing" of the Globe puzzle - not complaining, just saying...

Saturday, 1/17/09

NYT 6:33 ... LAT 3:13 ... CS 2:15 ... ND 4:41 ... BEQ 3:32 ... MGWC 9:21

I was on a roll until hitting the NYT... couldn't get a good foothold for a few minutes. False starts included HOTSHOT for ONESPOT ("Ace") and IVIES for TINAS ("Brown and others"), which sit on top of one another. I thought I knew the Smurfs' creator, because as a boy I had a Smurfs bedspread with his signature all over it... I wanted it to be HERGE (who created Asterix), but that didn't fit, and PEYO ended up coming entirely from crosses.

In other news, I may have Barry C. Silk all figured out. And Merle Baker's Stumper is one of my favorites that I can remember.

Didn't get to the Friday Quigley and Gaffney until tonight, and they were excellent warmups for the Saturday themelesses. I loved the extra-tough Gaffney, and needed the last 2-3 minutes to solve the NW corner. The Tony Award clue at 15-A should have been a gimme, but I had to mentally scroll through recent plays and musicals to get it. Haven't even attempted to puzzle out the meta-answer yet...

Friday, 1/16/09

NYT 4:06 ... SUN 2:49 ... LAT 3:46 ... CS 1:58 ... CHE 2:23 ... WSJ 5:12

Back to Across Lite (and the NYT applet) for the day. Printer's just about out of ink and I have to shake the cartridge every few pages...

I expected to have an error in the NYT, because there were several sections where I changed some letters and didn't check all the crosses. But apparently it worked out. The Sun is not my fastest Weekend Warrior ever - I recently did one from '07 in 2:44. I think that's my record for the Chronicle of Higher Ed, though.

Thursday, 1/15/09

NYT (p) 3:59 ... SUN (p) 3:54 ... LAT (p) 3:10* ... CS (p) 2:39

Really didn't feel like printing tonight, but the Sun puzzle by Matt Ginsberg is PDF only. Great concept there with oversized boxes to fit oversized rebus entries!

The double dose of Blindauer is always welcome... I sussed out the NYT theme within 20 seconds when I had JOSEPH-, knew it had to be -INE BAKER, and spotted the central clue to the theme. Still wasn't easy, never having heard of SENSEN or ANASSES. (I did figure out before stopping the timer that it was AMASSES, with the brilliant clue misdirection [Bazooka, e.g.]...)

But I didn't figure out my error on the LAT. Had heard of all the "...EE" cities except for KANKAKEE. Correctly guessed STAKING, crossing the first K, but had PEER IN instead of PEEK IN, and KANRAKEE looked just as good. That's a crossing that shouldn't be in a Thursday puzzle. Yes, I'm bitter.

Wednesday, 1/14/09

NYT (p) 3:41 ... SUN (p) 4:25 ... LAT (p) 3:14 ... CS (p) 2:34 ... BEQ 3:28 ... NYT Going Too Far (p) 5:03

Tuesday, 1/13/09

NYT (p) 2:34 ... SUN (p) 3:07 ... LAT (p) 2:31 ... CS (p) 3:02 ... BT (p) 4:27 ... TO (p) 3:59

Monday, 1/12/09

NYT 2:01 ... SUN 2:08 ... LAT 1:58 ... CS 2:07 ... JON 3:02 ... BEQ 3:23

Sunday, 1/11/09

NYT (p) 9:08 ... LAT (p) 7:45 ... BG 11/23 (p) 8:56 ... MR (p) 6:50* ... CS (p) 3:44

Had an error on the Reagle - DIS for DIG as the [Unkind remark], crossing LEOS, which looked OK but should have been LEO G. Carroll. So it's not my fastest 21x21 time on record. Loved the NYT and apparently beat Trip and Al by a good minute. Nice to see Henry Hook back to his usual difficulty level...

Saturday, 1/10/09

NYT 6:43 ... LAT 3:21 ... CS 2:07 ... ND 4:30

Too lazy to use the printer tonight...

Friday, 1/9/09

NYT (p) 5:36 ... SUN (p) 7:53 ... LAT (p) 3:33 ... CS (p) 3:00 ... CHE (p) 4:50 ... WSJ (p) 6:56

Thursday, 1/8/09

NYT (p) 3:50 ... SUN (p) 3:59 ... LAT 3:53 ... CS 2:01

Wednesday, 1/7/09

NYT 2:19 ... SUN 2:51 ... LAT 2:12 ... CS 2:31 ... BEQ 3:14

Fun NYT by William Frank Macreery. Each corner tells a story:
GRAHAM, LIBIDO, AMENDS. Sorry, Mrs. Graham.
BAHRAINI ANIMALIA SLOSHED! What are they feeding them?
ALLOCATE TATTERED PARAPET. [verb] [adjective] [noun].
And OLIVIA, RIVERA, KEENER, which of course is a reference to the famous joke where Olivia Wilde, Mariano Rivera, and Catherine Keener walk into a bar.

and a nice Sun puzzle by Randall Hartman, with legitimately amusing theme answers. Dude, GALACTIC ACID!

Tuesday, 1/6/09

NYT (p) 2:55 ... SUN (p) 4:39 ... LAT (p) 2:55 ... CS (p) 2:35 ... BT (p) 4:17 ... TO (p) 4:06

I'm finding I may not have the time and energy for daily blogging when I'm not on vacation... I'll continue posting my times, at least.

Monday, 1/5/09

NYT (p) 2:33 ... SUN (p) 2:56 ... LAT 1:54 ... CS 2:05 ... JON 2:26 ... BEQ 3:45

Can't say I have anything germane to add about the day's crosswords. So I won't.

Sunday, 1/4/09

NYT (p) 7:10 ... LAT (p) 8:35 ... MR (p) 11:25 ... 11/9 BG (p) 7:34 ... 11/16 BG (p) 7:30 ... CS (p) 5:08 ... MGCC 3:12

Very easy Times puzzle today, classic and elegant. Had an unusual amount of trouble with Reagle's puzzle -- several of the theme puns were unfamiliar, like "My Little Margie" and "The Mad Monk", and I had BEAT ONE'S BAKER instead of ...BATCH. But the final two theme entries were laugh-out-loud funny -- well, OF BISON BEN is groan-out-loud funny.

That's two straight Henry Hook Boston Globe crosswords that seemed easier than usual, but Gorski's Globe had some difficult spots. Had to make educated guesses at three letters of SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE... Finally, Bob Klahn's Sunday Challenge was about average for a Klahn. Sequential pairs of clues include Pool poker/Curly poker?, PC key/Sea key, Station launched in 1986/Station launched in 1976, Getz into jazz/Group into jazz... Does he plan on these pairs while filling the grid? And is that more or less genius than coming up with them after the fact?

Matt Gaffney's "The Inversion Version" is easy breezy, and I figured out the meta-answer in only 5 minutes or so. Should have taken 5 seconds, but I'm a mediocre Scrabble player...

Saturday, 1/3/09

NYT 4:46 ... LAT 4:34 ... CS 2:05 ... ND 11:40

Solved these puzzles after taking the red-eye home to New York and getting about 30 minutes of sleep. Crap, maybe I should be believing my own hype.

All three themelesses are top-notch, especially the NYT by Ashlee Simpson's husband Peter Wentz. (Huh? Not the same guy?) [Oops! I see Orange already made the same joke. Sorry!] Special kudos to Stan Newman for the [Seven-Oscar nominee in the '80s] mislead, which had to be STREEP -- the first E was confirmed by ENROUTE -- but it turned out to be ALIENS! Who knew?

In a bizarre synchronicity, both the NYT and Stumper have IHEARYA at 15-Across! Insert Twilight Zone music... So much more to say, plus another sweet word-baby from Patrick Blindauer, but I'm going to bed now, and may blog further while watching football later.

Friday, 1/2/09

NYT (p) 4:38 ... SUN 14:00* ... LAT (p) 5:02 ... CS (p) 2:49 ... WSJ (p) 6:58 ... BEQ (p) 4:39

Martin Ashwood-Smith brings his patented triple-stacks to the NYT and a not-so-tough themeless. 1-Across, SALESRESISTANCE, is overly common as a 15-letter entry -- or so I thought, but the databases don't agree. I bet it's also been in some Longo cranium-crushers. Started this one with the MUNRO/ANNAN cross in the grid's dead center. Doing themelesses on paper, I tend to scan the clues for gimmes, while on other puzzles I'll start in the top left. Last letter was the B of THEROBE/BASED, which was pretty much a guess, though I see how [Grounded] can mean BASED.

I knew there'd be much erasing with the Sun's Vowelless Crossword by Frank Longo, so I didn't print it. My mom -- who can finish a Tuesday on her own, and was recently given a copy of Amy Reynaldo's book by her loving son -- was curious about the vowelless, so she kibitzed and helped with a bunch of answers. I also had Across Lite show me two wrong letters toward the end (we had Hungarian Rebellion instead of Revolution). I don't remember so many out-and-out gimmes in past vwllsss (e.g. US Senate, Scarlet Letter, The Verdict)... maybe after editing an entire book of these, Peter's more sensitive to how freakin' hard they can be! I took too long trying to fit the Patriots or Giants in 54-Across where the Colts belonged, and still don't get the first word of 52-Across.

Friday update... hopefully brief as I have to get to the airport and back to freezing New York City! It felt a bit odd to solve today's Quigley puzzle with a pencil, since it's not meant to exist in print. Brendan's got a potty mouth, but hides it well. Lots of good fill like BLITZER, YOUWHAT [!?], POTATOE, SOIGATHER...

I figured out the theme in the LAT much quicker than I normally do, but had trouble grasping the "hint" answer TEE-OFF TIME, fooled as I was by the word "Driver" in the clue. The WSJ has a crazy asymmetrical grid designed to look like an ANT farm, and apparently contains 30 ANTS (I didn't go looking). Great execution by ACME and PB2... This may be my fastest 21x21 time with a pencil, and I felt like the clues were easier than most WSJ puzzles. Perhaps because there are so many isolated sections, and Mike Shenk wanted to make sure solvers wouldn't get stuck.

Thursday, 1/1/09

NYT 3:22 (p) ... SUN 7:26 (p) ... LAT 3:52 (p) ... CS 3:15 (p)

Happy New Year! It's not exactly a resolution, but I'm going to stay away from the NYT applet for a while and do most of the daily puzzles on paper. Less than two months until the ACPT, and I may as well go for broke with the training. My goal is to win the B division and finish in the top 10 overall.

Alan Arbesfeld's NYT is great except for the bizarro NATES, and I never saw that clue. Karen M. Tracey's Sun "Themeless Thursday" seemed easy enough until I got to the north and northeast quadrants, where I couldn't get anything to stick. Figured out early that [Woodstock artist] CHARLES was SCHULZ, but it wouldn't fit unless I spelled it with a T. Knew [The Plow] had to be a constellation, but had it starting with an A based on the incorrect ABASE (shoulda been ABUSE, and the U would have given me URSAM--OR). Eventually I guessed SPARSE for [Thin] (wanted SVELTE), which filled in the top section... and Sparky's middle initial, which helped mop up the rest of it. And I thought I had KMT all figured out!

In the LAT, I'm proud of myself for immediately figuring out [Yearns for pines?: Abbr.] = SYN. In the CS, FINAL SCORE and NO FLY ZONES are great long fill, but the thematic resolutions are a bit stilted except for EXERCISE DAILY.


What's all this, then?

I started using this "blog" in late 2008 to keep track of my daily crossword solving times, because I didn't know how to make a fancy spreadsheet. In late 2011, I began posting a public daily spreadsheet so that other solvers could post their times alongside mine.

How does it work?

Weeknights at 10 PM Eastern, and weekends at 6 PM Eastern (coinciding with the online release of the New York Times crossword), a post goes up with a link to the day's spreadsheet. Click the "Add your times here" link to visit the Google Drive spreadsheet and share your solving times. Everybody is welcome to contribute at any time, regardless of skill level.

What are the letters and numbers?

The letters are the crossword's publisher, and the numbers are the solving time in minutes and seconds.

Here's the rundown of the crosswords we track in the spreadsheets. The blog sidebar (and/or Google searching) can help you find these puzzles. ($) means that you have to pay for it.

Current puzzles:
NYT (daily) - New York Times, edited by Will Shortz ($)
LAT (daily) - Los Angeles Times, edited by Rich Norris
CS (daily) - CrosSynergy syndicate, edited by the member constructors
ND (daily) - Newsday, edited by Stanley Newman
BF (Monday-Friday) - BuzzFeed, edited by Caleb Madison
WSJ (Monday-Saturday) - Wall Street Journal, edited by Mike Shenk
BEQ (Monday & Thursday) - indie puzzles by Brendan Emmett Quigley
GK (Monday) - "Grid Kid" indie puzzles by Sam Ezersky
JON/Jones (Tuesday) - Jonesin', syndicated alt-weekly by Matt Jones, edited by Matt Gaffney
AR (alternate Tuesdays) - Aries Puzzles, Rows Garden puzzles by Andrew Ries ($)
JP (Tuesdays and alternate Mondays) - "Outside the Box" Rows Garden and variety puzzles by Joon Pahk and others ($)
AVC (Wednesday) - American Values Club, edited by Ben Tausig ($)
EA (Wednesday) - "Glutton for Pun" indie puzzles by Erik Agard
TC (Wednesday & Saturday) - "Club 72" indie puzzles by Tim Croce
FB (Thursday) - Fireball Crosswords, edited by Peter Gordon ($)
MGWC (Friday) - Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest ($)
CHE (Friday) - Chronicle of Higher Education, edited by Brad Wilber
FNC (alternate Fridays) - Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords by Peter Gordon ($)
WSJ2nd (Saturday) - Wall Street Journal variety puzzle, by Mike Shenk, Patrick Berry, and Cox & Rathvon
AR (Saturday) - Aries XWord, by Andrew Ries ($)
DC (Saturday) - "Devil Cross" indie puzzles by Evan Birnholz
NYT2nd (Sunday) - New York Times "second Sunday" puzzle, edited by Will Shortz ($)
NYTPB (Sunday) - New York Times "A Little Variety" puzzle, by Patrick Berry ($)
BG/CRooked (Sunday, 21x21) - Boston Globe, by Henry Hook and Emily Cox & Henry Rathvon ($)
AK (Sunday?) - "Cruciverbalist at Law" indie puzzles by Andy Kravis
TM (intermittently) - "Unthemely" indie puzzles by Todd McClary
PB2 (monthly) - indie puzzles by Patrick Blindauer
MMMM (monthly) - Muller Monthly Music Meta by Pete Muller

Former puzzles:
SUN (weekdays) - New York Sun, edited by Peter Gordon
BT/Tausig (Tuesday) - Ink Well, syndicated alt-weekly by Ben Tausig
TO (Tuesday) - The Onion/AV Club, edited by Ben Tausig
NF (Friday) - indie puzzles by Neville Fogarty
WP (Sunday) - Washington Post Puzzler, edited by Peter Gordon
MR/Reagle (Sunday) - syndicated puzzle by Merl Reagle
LATB - LA Times Sunday Calendar puzzle by Sylvia Bursztyn

paper or (p) - indicates solving with pencil/paper, as opposed to Across Lite.
(c) - indicates solving with computer, as opposed to paper.
* - indicates that the time "doesn't count" due to errors, cheating, computer snafu, or other circumstance.

And you are...?

Dan Feyer, six-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion. Born and raised in San Francisco, I attended Princeton University and lived in New York City for 14 years before moving back to S.F. in 2014. I'm a musical theater pianist with a long resume as a music director/conductor/orchestrator in New York and regional theaters. Since discovering the puzzle community in 2007, I've published four crosswords in the New York Times, written three books of word search puzzles, and worked extensively as a crossword test-solver and proofreader. I can be reached at "danfeyer at hotmail".

(updated October 2015)