Saturday, 2/28/09

NYT 4:02 ... LAT 3:56 ... CS 2:20 ... ND 5:38

If these were supposed to be extra-hard Saturday puzzles for ACPT weekend, then I'm in good shape for tomorrow. And so to bed.

Friday, 2/27/09

NYT 4:49 ... SUN (p) 11:48 ... LAT 3:08 ... CS 1:47 ... CHE 2:15 ... WSJ (p) 7:23 ... BEQ (p) 4:34 ... MGWC 4:11

I've had a few failures this week on old themelesses, so I thought it might be best for morale to solve on the applet. Almost don't want to do the final Sun puzzle, but I'll get to it before heading down to Brooklyn. See you all soon (except Joon, Paula, and Dad)...

updated: wow, the Sun is a doozy! I knew immediately based on word count that there would be a rebus element, and figured out the specific gimmick after about 5 minutes, but it was still super-tough.

Thursday, 2/26/09

NYT (p) 3:36 ... SUN (p) 3:41 ... LAT (p) 3:19 ... CS (p) 2:28

One more dawn... One more day... sorry.

Had to make an educated guess at the NYT crossing of KIRI (documentarian Davis) and WARE ("Delft, e.g."). Very clever LAT theme with TWO BYRDS and ONE STONE - haven't had a true "aha!" moment like that in a while.

Wednesday, 2/25/09

NYT (p) 2:26 ... SUN (p) 3:44 ... LAT (p) 3:10 ... CS (p) 2:34 ... BEQ 2:44

Onion/Tausig times under yesterday's heading so I can find them later for statistical analysis...

I haven't been going nuts with practicing this week. Of all the times for the crossword addiction to start fading... I'm still totally psyched about the ACPT, just don't feel like solving 25 extra puzzles today.

Tuesday, 2/24/09

NYT (p) 2:59 ... SUN (p) 3:13 ... LAT (p) 2:39 ... CS (p) 2:30 ... BT (p) 4:45 ... TO (p) 3:37

I didn't notice until reading Orange that the NYT was 16 squares wide. Was it really an amazing enough theme to merit the XL treatment? I don't mind, but I'm surprised. Peter Gordon, on the other hand, one-ups Will Shortz yet again with a 17x15 puzzle featuring 7 theme answers. I wonder how hard he tried to get them in chronological order.

Monday, 2/23/09

NYT (p) 2:29 ... SUN (p) 2:46 ... LAT (p) 2:28 ... CS (p) 2:48 ... JON (p) 3:58 ... BEQ (p) 3:42

Sunday, 2/22/09

NYT 4:53 ... LAT 4:51 ... BG 5:19 ... MR 5:11 ... CS 2:32 ... Puns & Anagrams 8:55

Saturday, 2/21/09

NYT (p) 9:01 ... LAT (p) 4:11 ... CS (p) 3:14 ... ND (p) 4:50

I think Will Shortz has revoked my themeless mojo. Or I'm trying to go too fast and forgetting you're supposed to have to SOLVE these. Usually I don't spend more than a second or two on a clue before moving on, but there were a few today that I might have gotten on the first pass by stopping and thinking. Will try to remember that for the hard puzzles at the ACPT.

Nice LAT and Newsday themelesses, respectively, by noted confidants Barry Silk and Doug Peterson, who both like SKATERS.

Friday, 2/20/09

NYT (p) 8:13 ... SUN (p) 5:33 ... LAT (p) 4:06 ... CS (p) 2:23 ... CHE (p) 3:13 ... WSJ (p) 7:43 ... BEQ 2:49 ... MGWC 3:28

Wow, I haven't been so stymied by a NYT crossword in a while. Four of the initial short Downs were gimmes, but there were only a couple other entries I knew for sure in the whole puzzle. I even managed to screw up the "Twelfth Night" clue with AS A BOY instead of AS A MAN. APGAR SCORE rang no bells, SHORE COVER made no sense, SUA and PICO (clued as the partial city) I've never seen. Not even going to mention L-SEVEN. At least I spelled REBEKAH right. I should have seen and solved the clue for TEY much earlier, which would have given me WRIT and opened up the NW.

The only movie character I knew in the Sun puzzle was TUGG SPEEDMAN. Six empty boxes taunted me in the SE, until I guessed DRAKE could be a surname, which meant AKITA was a place and [Cathouse cheese] was a person.

Shocking "Natick"-style crossing in the Chron: AT_A (Kofi Annan's middle name) and _TEST (statistics mumbo-jumbo). I vaguely remembered ATTA, but that's rough. At least the bizarre CEEB had easy crossings.

Also had trouble throughout the northern part of the WSJ, but I needn't get into it except to remind myself that HAIFA can be spelled JAFFA, and to smack myself for not getting TYNE DALY. (I am a close personal acquaintance of Tim Daly's.)

Set some more personal records on this week's tour of the NYT archives... if only someone had been filming me, I could have been a YouTube star.
Mon 10/15/01 paper - 2:03
Sun 10/14/01 paper - 5:54 (pretty sure I solved this one in an old collection, pre-obsession)
Mon 11/19/01 Across Lite - 1:17
Fri 11/23/01 Across Lite - 2:20 (by Byron, but semi-themed)

Thursday, 2/19/09

NYT 3:15 ... SUN 4:24 ... LAT 2:15 ... CS 2:07

Got bollixed up for a while in the Sun's midsection with AHI (confirmed by TRAIL) and then EEL instead of ROE. Never heard of FATHER O'MALLEY, and needed every crossing to parse it too, though I can't explain why FAT HERO would be a character name, much less a multi-Oscar-nominated one. I assumed the grid was 16x15, but apparently not -- the left-right symmetry just makes it look taller. Oh, and Kevin Der has another classic NYT.

Wednesday, 2/18/09

NYT (p) 3:20 ... SUN (p) 3:35 ... LAT (p) 3:13 ... CS 1:55 ... BEQ 3:34

Congrats to Tony Orbach on his CrosSynergy debut!

ACPT Training: 17 Weeks of Puzzles

Last November and December I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I began a project to gauge my solving speed on paper. I started with this book of daily NYT crosswords from September-December 2004. Over a few weeks I worked through all the puzzles in the book, plus all the Sunday puzzles from the same time period, and the dailies not included in the book, printed out from the Times archives.

This ended up being 17 weeks' worth of NYT puzzles. I calculated my average for each day of the week, tossing out the slowest and fastest times. Here are the results:
Monday - 2:41
Tuesday - 2:48
Wednesday - 3:18
Thursday - 3:53
Friday - 5:14
Saturday - 5:48
Sunday - 9:10

These days my times are generally faster than that, because I've been practicing on paper more recently. So it's good to have a kind of baseline to see how my skills have developed. Based on solving times posted on Crossword Fiend, I'm in the neighborhood of Al and Trip, and shouldn't be too worried about lack of pencil/paper experience.

Stay tuned for future installments of "Dan Trains for the ACPT", including "Dan Competes Against Top Solvers of the '80s" and "Dan Re-Solves Last Year's Puzzles"...

Tuesday, 2/17/09

NYT 2:12 ... SUN 2:20 ... LAT 1:47 ... CS 1:39 ... BT 3:36 ... TO 2:45

Bonus solving time: "World's Most Ornery Crossword" by Frank Longo, GAMES March 2009 - 17:26.
It's the first GAMES I've ever bought, and I'm a bit disappointed - don't think the few crosswords within will merit the five bucks in the future. GAMES World of Puzzles was a slightly better investment (picked one up last summer), but I don't see myself subscribing to that one either.

Monday, 2/16/09

NYT 2:14 ... SUN 1:57 ... LAT 1:56 ... CS 2:00 ... JON 2:45 ... BEQ 3:25

Typo on the NYT added about 20 seconds. Cool asymmetrical grid from Peter Gordon. In fact, that may be the most asymmetrical grid I've ever seen that doesn't have letters spelled out by the blocks.

Sunday, 2/15/09

NYT (p) 8:23 ... LAT (p) 6:11 ... MR (p) 7:10 ... BG (p) 7:54 ... CS (p) 4:38 ... Acrostic 11:40

Several nice gnarly spots in the NYT, which is probably why it was accepted as the theme is average. Had a good rhythm going on Klahn's Sunday Challenge, but the NE took some puzzling. LAT time is my best for paper 21x21.

Hey, two months of "blogging". I'll try this week to write about ACPT training instead of just posting times.

Saturday, 2/14/09

NYT (p) 4:16 ... LAT (p) 3:20 ... CS (p) 2:45 ... ND (p) 5:47

Friday, 2/13/09

NYT (p) 4:59 ... SUN 5:54 ... LAT (p) 4:03 ... CS (p) 2:31 ... CHE (p) 3:24 ... WSJ (p) 8:02* ... BEQ 3:13 ... MGWC 5:13

Oh, how I love Trip Payne's Wacky Weekend Warriors! (aka Something Different) I can't decide whether to speed-solve or savor it. (Update: Tried to savor it, and definitely took the time to LOL, but it still went too quickly.)

Let's talk about the WSJ. I had the top half or so done with standard alacrity, but got bogged down and thought I would end up with multiple errors. Actually, only in square 1: BOOERS crossing BATS, which I should have known wouldn't be clued as [Corp. phone line]. I remembered WADI and KAVA but not NIPA, that [Basketry palm], and haven't heard of OOLITE, which must be obscure because it appears only once in the databases.

Also have to mention that I solved this week's Newsdays on paper, which I probably won't do any more. First, the grid's in the top right, which is annoying. Second, this pair of clues from Thursday's puzzle by David W. Cromer:
21-A Cropped up
50-D Come up
And yes, we were looking for two forms of the same word. I really admire Stan Newman but that's sloppy.

Thursday, 2/12/09

NYT (p) 3:37 ... SUN (p) 4:16 ... LAT (p) 3:21 ... CS 1:55

Happy 200th, Abe and Chuck. Three puzzles down, three LINCOLNs in the grid. I did recently read about this coincidence, so the Sun's long answers were easy. Until the digits started showing up! The F-117 is a jet? I did manage to puzzle out that corner quickly enough, because I knew digits would work as digits in both directions, unlike in the old days when 100 would be I-O-O in the downs. I speak as if I were there in the old days.

So the NYT was spoiled by just having done the Sun. Pretty blah fill in the NYT, especially when you compare it to what Peter Gordon can do: UPTOSNUFF! GLISSANDO! MESOMORPH?

Wednesday, 2/11/09

NYT (p) 3:00 ... SUN (p) 4:03 .. LAT (p) 2:51 ... CS 2:00 ... BEQ 3:12

OK, now I'm really back to paper. We'll see how long that lasts. Still doing other puzzles on paper most days anyway. The LAT puzzle is available earlier than it used to - recently it's been there by 10 pm ET (aka NYT changeover time) instead of midnight. I like being able to do the three available at night, and the rest the next day. Though soon there'll only be two available at night. Sad face.

Nearly had an error on the NYT, having remembered Mr. Ataturk as KAMAL, but I also remembered that ALY is a person and ELY is in England, and we were looking for the latter. So KEMAL it is. Also had to mention that for the NYT tonight, my phone's stopwatch hit 3:00:00 exactly. Eerie!

Tuesday, 2/10/09

NYT 1:59 ... SUN 2:51 ... LAT 1:45 ... CS 1:47 ... BT 2:51 ... TO 3:15

Congrats to Doug Peterson on his CrosSynergy debut!

Monday, 2/9/09

NYT 1:50 ... SUN 2:01 ... LAT 1:32 ... CS 2:16 ... JON 2:28 ... BEQ 2:50

Sunday, 2/8/09

NYT 4:26 ... LAT 5:08 ... CS 2:22 ... BG 4:48 ... MR 5:24 ... ND 3:46

My fastest Sunday time in the NYT applet. Really easy theme, and some decent long fill. Rich Norris's LAT shows how a boring theme can be spiced up by wide-open corners, and I thought it was harder than my time would indicate.

Saturday, 2/7/09

NYT (p) 5:10 ... LAT (p) 7:50 ... CS (p) 2:48 ... ND (p) 6:32

I was afraid when I saw Pete Muller's name on the Saturday NYT, as he's known for crazy outside-the-box themes, but the grid looked like a regular themeless and that's what it was. The LAT by Tom Heilman, on the other hand, was very tough.

Addendum. So it's not technically a themeless - SEX, DRUGS, ROCK, and ROLL in the corners, and nobody on the blogs noticed for 12 hours! Ah, that Pete.

Friday, 2/6/09

NYT (p) 5:23 ... SUN 4:55 ... LAT (p) 4:07 ... CS (p) 2:50 ... CHE (p) 3:18 ... WSJ 5:07 ... BEQ 3:59 ... MGWCC 4:49

Back to the pencil and paper this morning...

Thursday, 2/5/09

NYT 2:49 ... SUN 3:06 ... LAT 1:47 ... CS 1:22

Another day, another record: 1:22 for a 15x15. Will Nediger's Sun Themeless Thursday had me on a record pace because of many long (and awesome) gimmes - WUTANGCLAN, SLACKJAWEDYOKEL, MIKEPIAZZA - but it got harder. I'm more excited about tomorrow's Sun crossword, which I solved tonight. Man, it sucks that there are only three more weeks of daily Gordony goodness.

Wednesday, 2/4/09

NYT 2:49 ... SUN 3:14 ... LAT 1:59 ... CS 1:47 ... BEQ 3:43

I'm exhausted and haven't eaten in 10 hours. Also, PB2 rules.

Tuesday, 2/3/09

NYT 1:47 ... SUN 2:52 ... LAT 2:06 ... CS 1:52 ... BT 3:32 ... TO 3:14

Monday, 2/2/09

NYT 1:37 ... SUN 1:36 ... LAT 1:56 ... CS 2:02 ... JON 2:40 ... BEQ 3:54

I finally got a new printer cartidge, and soon I won't be getting home after midnight every night, so it's time to get back to pencil/paper solving.

Sunday, 2/1/09

NYT 6:38 ... LAT 6:10 ... CS 2:22 ... BG 3:47 ... MR 5:07 ... ND 3:43 ... Diagramless 7:55

Don't think I've ever timed a diagramless before. This one went pretty fast. FYI, I do take the starting square hint, but not the symmetry hint. (This is accomplished by opening the notepad, blocking the text with my hand, and carefully revealing the last words until I see the key word, i.e. "sixth".)

Apparently I've gotten better at navigating the Newsday applet. Joon wondered in a comment, as I have also wondered, how it's possible to complete a 21x21 in under 4 minutes. So I did the math (probably should have left that to Joon)... a Sunday-size puzzle has less than twice the word count of a 15x15, which I can often finish in under 2 minutes. Thus, if it's easy enough, a 21x21 can take under 4 minutes. Right?