Lollapuzzoola 3: The Great Pickle Giveaway

[This post was written before the tournament...]
[And updated afterwards...]


Congratulations to the champions! Whoever they may be! Jeffrey Harris and Jeffrey Dubner! And hooray for Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeffrey Krasnick, just because! All four Jeffs (but especially the first two) will be very competitive at the ACPT. In fact, can we say Mr. Harris is a strong favorite to beat me? I'll say it.

I was unable to defend my Lollapuzzoola crown due to work commitments, but I did get to test-solve the puzzles last week. Here are my solving times, if you'd like to compare notes:

Puzzle 1: "Ryan Says..." by Deb Amlen -- 2:37
The theme clues were written out on the test version, so I imagine it would have been a bit slower under tournament conditions.
[Actually, the tournament copy had the same clues, plus hints provided before the puzzle started, so I was at a tiny disadvantage.]

Puzzle 2: "Mixed Doubles" by Mike Nothnagel -- 13:00 plus :30 for bonus answer
I didn't read the instructions carefully enough, and didn't realize until halfway through that the pairs were either both Across or both Down. So I wasted some time searching for matches where they couldn't be found.
[At the event, the instructions were carefully explained before solving began, so I was at a bigger disadvantage, since I started the clock before reading the clues.]

Puzzle 3: "Saturday Morning Cartoons" by Joe Krozel -- 7:08
Barely used the cartoons at all, because they weren't much help in parsing the theme answers. Left all the unchecked squares blank until I got enough circled letters to figure out the theme, which obviously helped a great deal.

Puzzle 4: "Lucky Sevens" by Tyler Hinman -- 10:31
Amazing puzzle all around. Who thought it was even possible to put together a grid with 64 seven-letter answers and nothing else? It took me longer than it should have to see what was going on, but once I did, I didn't really get hung up anywhere.

Puzzle 5: "To Prevent Data Loss" by Neville Fogarty -- 10:58
Cool theme, and impressive in its density.
[Neville told me they discovered an ambiguous square when solvers came up with a possibly-correct crossing: ARGS or ARRS could be [Pirates' interjections], and STR or STG could be the [Section with vlns.]. I didn't catch that because STR is more standard, and ARR(R) is a R&B inside joke...]

Final (Express Division) by Doug Peterson -- DNF! I had a really rough time all the way through, not just with the unknowns TIRPITZ and HABAKKUK. At the 15-minute time limit, I had everything except an empty SE corner, with a couple of wrong guesses (OREM crossing FRETS). So after a few more minutes banging my pencil against the wall, I cheated by looking at a couple of the Local Division clues and finished it up.

So I'm glad that I wasn't competing, because I might have tanked up at the whiteboard! I was also happy to bow out so that other top solvers would get a shot at the finals -- not that I was guaranteed to be there, but, you know, odds were good. Let's once again commend Howard Barkin, who didn't have an excuse to sit out except that he's ultranice.

Well, only one of the finalists was able to finish, and it sure helped that he got HABAKKUK off the H. But Jon and Joon both ran into a brick wall in the same place I did. I think I ended up with a few more correct squares than they had, so... might have been second place?

I had a great time seeing all the cool cruciverbalists, though I didn't have as much social time because I didn't get to chat in the hallway after solving (I was on Deb Amlen's grid-collecting team), and I had to leave for three hours in the middle of the day. That aside, it was an extremely fun and successful event, and I was correct in saying last year that they were going to need a bigger room -- the solvers barely fit! Congratulations to Ryan and Brian, and thanks to everyone who made it happen and came to play.


Joon said...

oh man, that SE corner...

Joe Krozel said...

Thanks for the feedback on puzzle 3, Dan. From the outset, I sought an out-of-the-box puzzle concept, and the pictures seemed to be a multi-media approach that Ryan and Brian encouraged from the constructors. I'm guessing that most solvers were probably like you; not relying on the pictures to determine the theme entries, but using them only to verify those entries after the fact (if at all). In the end, I hope solvers enjoyed the puzzle -- even while it was a competition -- and might later appreciate that the theme entries are my original palindromes. (I surely don't expect any compliments on the artwork ... we opted not to hire a professional to improve them).

Dan said...

Joe, the concept was indeed excellent, and the 25-letter palindromes very impressive! I don't think it's a problem that the drawings weren't too helpful, I was just expecting something a little different, I guess.

Doug P said...

I knew HABAKKUK would be tough (love those K's!), but I didn't realize how hard it would to break into that corner from the rest of the grid.

As for the Stumper, I swear I don't remember putting ARGOSY in there. OK, I sort of remember. I'm working on one now with lots of Oakland A's & physics references! :)

Karen from the Cape said...

What does vlns stand for?

I know at least one person at the contest was trying to match across clues and downs in Mike's puzzle, even after the instructions were given.

Howard B said...

Dan, were those times from the first test version of the puzzles?

For what it's worth, I had a mixed bag of test times from the first versions.

Puzzle 1 was about on par with your time I think, 2:28.
Puzzle 2 was 13:38, with about 1 minute on the bonus since my paper was a mess and I had to search out the final pairing through the erasures :).

Puzzle 3 was at 9:32, had some trouble with the first version of some clues, and had to correct something in the third theme.
By the way, Joe, I especially enjoyed the palindromosity of the theme and the first illustration - I probably lost a little more time with a fit of giggles, I have to admit. It's so insane that combined with the palindrome, it's worth the payoff. Nice job!
Also, I heard people complimenting the palindromes after the puzzle, as well as discussing the merits of the lyrics to 'Bob' by Weird Al Yankovic, etc. So I think this theme added to the variety of puzzles to please different tastes. And have to love those "unchecked" squares! Those caught quite a few solvers unawares.

Puzzle 4 was 10:02, and my test comments included "So evil..." and the (complimentary) "How the hell did this one get created?" I was impressed.

Puzzle 5, in the first incarnation, took me 14:20, there were several pop-culture specific clues and names that I could not resolve without several guesses to break logjams. The second version cleared up almost all of this, and really showed through in the final editing.

Final was 8:25. Comments included "Man, this was good stuff. I just enjoyed the hell out of solving this." Had trouble with different spots, although that SE corner was nasty.

Just wanted to emphasize that the variety of puzzles really gave people's different strengths a chance to show through, both on the solving and constructing sides.

Dan said...

Doug: I'd love to get more musical-theater clues, if you can swing that...

Karen: Violins. My only published puzzle has [Tpts. and tbns.] in a clue (for HNS), and lots of people were confused. I guess unless you're in music, you don't ever think of instruments' abbrevs...

Howard: Second version, which I believe (haven't checked) were almost identical to the final puzzles -- things I flagged were basically copy-editing.

Doug P said...

Dan, musical theater is probably my largest gaping chasm of ignorance, but I'll try. :) Any theater clues I use are probably cribbed from other puzzles. For example, the only things I know about "Oklahoma!" are Aunt ELLER and that it takes place in Oklahoma (I assume).

Howard B said...

Yeah, most of the puzzle versions were similar. Puzzle 5 got a bit more of a work-over, and #3 had a few fill changes as well. Puzzle 2 had some clues softened up to clarify ambiguities as well, but the fill was the same. Editing was really well done and smoothed out potential confusion. My concerns about pitchforks and fiery objects hurled after Puzzles 2 and 4 were unfounded :).

@Doug: This is why Brad Wilber's puzzles sometimes trip me up. More than usual emphasis on musical theater and opera, but I sure learn a lot each time.

From a middle-school program, I think I still remember:
"Oooooklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain...
And the waving wheat, can sure smell sweet...
'Cept that damned SE corner is a pain !!"
Well, not that last line. That's just a test-solving flashback intruding. Sorry 'bout that.

Joon said...

for comparison purposes, here are my times and actual ranks:

1. 3:07 (9th)
2. 15:40, i think. 19:20 left on the clock, and it says 30 minutes. but if i remember right, this was the one with 5 more minutes than what was listed on the page. if not, then 10:40, but that seems too fast. at any rate, (5th). i didn't bother with the bonus answer until afterwards, but i solved it from memory in a few seconds (just from clues; didn't check the circles).
3. 7:51 (4th)
4. 14:05 (6th)
5. 8:46 (4th). this was the only one where i was watching others. jangler and katie (both sitting at the table in front of me) finished within seconds of each other about 30 seconds after me, and were 5th-6th. feist was a bit after that.

Jeffrey said...

Look out all you non-Jeffreys! The Jeffolution has begun!

Joe Krozel said...

Great summary Howard. Glad the crazy gym picture had that effect on you.

By the way, my first round of clueing was intended to be totally off-the-wall ...which is what I thought Ryan and Brian were seeking. It was only when I test-solved the other puzzles that I realized that more conventional standards were called for. In the end, we opted for very direct clues for the fill ... relegating the difficulty to discovery and completion of the theme entries.

Very happy that the unchecked squares caught solvers unawares. By now solvers surely realize that there must always be a good reason for unchecked squares, and the redundancy of letters within the palindromes provided just that.:-)

Finally, I take a lot of pride in my palindromes: I have enough material assembled for an illustrated book as well as a how-to (construct) book. (But the former is in need of a professional artist to improve upon my conceptual drawings). In a way, the puzzle competition might have served as a test audience for the book idea; The only problem is, I didn't want to trouble Ryan and Brian with a way to get feedback when they had so many other details to handle right up to the end.

Joe Krozel said...

Tyler's puzzle was diabolical.

I had no idea that a spinning top on a string was called a DIABOLO, and by that stage of the test-solve, my immediate response was to petition Ryan and Brian to change Tyler's nickname to "El Diabolo" ... which would be both a reference to that puzzle (/entry) and a sly alteration of the otherwise befitting moniker "El Diablo." All in good fun, of course!

Howard B said...

The palindrome difficulty for some (and I guess here) may have partly been due to the time pressure aspect, when you know you have to put *something* in that square, you haven't quite sussed out and parsed that last palindrome yet, and the timer's counting down. There were multiple instances of SNOT for SPOT, for example, some with the correctly symmetrical N to complete the palindrome, some not or blank.

This is (and I know from experience) when you reach the point of educated guess, followed shortly by "guess-any-consonant". Most people who reach this point, given ample time and a comfy chair, would figure it out. Tournament is just a little different solving environment if you're not as used to a glowy timer.

And now I have snippets of "Bob" stuck in my head. I do enjoy these palindromic themes. Can't create them or speak for artistic ability though. Smileys and stick figures only here.

- Howard, no on draw. Oh!

Anne E said...

I'll chime in as well with the commentary I sent to Ryan & Brian, while agreeing with Howard that solving under tournament conditions and solving at home in your comfy chair are two different things:

#1 Ryan Says: 2:22. Very fun, just like all Deb’s work. Great starter puzzle, which should be in the Mon-Tues range, which this was.

#2 Mixed Doubles: 11.53 (including bonus word). Made same mistake as Dan F – didn’t realize pairs were both in Across or both in Down, and futzed around looking in both for pairs for the first few minutes– augh! But no actual mistakes in solution. I found this one very stressful – it’s such an uncommon type that I had no idea if I was going fast or slow. Very disconcerting. But I liked it.

#3 Sat AM Cartoons: 6:39. Loved the grid – should have paid attention to the circled squares sooner! Also didn’t use the cartoons much, which were... cryptic. As usual fine work by Joe, whom I tend to find a very difficult constructor.

#4 Lucky Sevens: 9:41. Although this idea isn’t original to Tyler, I’m pretty sure it’s never been executed using only 7s before! Great work. Title was VERY helpful since I got the point right away.

#5 To Prevent...: 8:26. One of the best executions of this kind of theme I’ve seen. Also liked the unusual grid shape. Also liked that the theme wasn’t only in the longest entries. Great aha moment with title! Never considered ARGS for a moment. :-)

#6: Express finals: 9.02 plus one error (shakes fist at self, not Doug, because it was something I knew, in both directions no less, and just put the wrong letter in for – gaaa! – a perennial problem I have). I LOVE Doug’s high-quality work and this was no exception – I wish Will would tap him for ACPT. 1A was one of the most brutal clues I’ve seen lately, and it was pretty close to the last thing I put in.

Dan said...

Nice, Anne! So let's see, you beat me on... 6 out of 6 puzzles. Let's not let that happen again, OK? ;)

Joe, your palindrome book idea sounds very cool...

Joon said...

oh, i suck at subtraction. 10:46 on #5, not 8:46. it did seem terribly unlikely that i'd beat dan by two minutes on a "normal" crossword. still rather surprised that i beat him at all.

anne: 1a in the express finals was pretty much the *only* clue i didn't have trouble with!

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog; thanks for the hooray! It's good to be a Jeffrey. Nice seeing you, albeit briefly, on Saturday.

Anne E said...

Joon, that's what Doug told me when I complimented him on the puzzle! He said you dropped that answer in about 1 second after the timer started. Unbelievable!

Dan... I think you're in luck. I peaked too soon... August. It's all downhill from here till March. I'm pretty sure last ACPT was also the only error-free tournament I'll ever do!

Howard B said...

Anne, ever the eternal optimist :).
Unless you're just using reverse psychology on yourself... I kid.
If all else fails, you can always just spell your name starting with a 'J' and ride the wave of good karma from the tournament.