Tuesday, 12/31/13

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I'm on a plane back to New York...

Monday, 12/23/13

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Thanks guys for keeping up with all the special anniversary puzzles last week! I'm solving here and there, but mostly enjoying a sweet summer vacation.
Monday morning: Now mostly caught up!

Tuesday, 12/17/13

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As this auto-posts, I'm sitting on the plane to Argentina. Have a great holiday season!

Monday, 12/16/13

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See the Friday post for my thoughts on the future of the daily spreadsheet. I've got it set up through early January, and I'll probably keep it going at least through the ACPT.

Friday, 12/13/13

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Big few weeks coming up. On Monday I'm headed to Argentina for a two-week vacation. Scheduled posts will continue, but I probably won't be solving many (if any) of the puzzles. Please update spreadsheet headings as necessary!

In early January I'll be moving to San Francisco, where Gretchen got a great job! Now I won't be too tired to solve when the puzzles come out at night. But I'm not sure I'm going to continue posting daily spreadsheets next year, for several reasons:
--It's not fully automated, so there's a small time investment;
--Only a few of you are still participating;
--There's enough data now for somebody to run statistical analyses - I would love to find out the statistical difference between paper and Across Lite solving, for instance;
--I don't need the (self-imposed) pressure to keep up with all the puzzles.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, 12/3/13

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Peter Broda is re-launching his weekly puzzle at The Cross Nerd, so I'm adding it to the Tuesday spreadsheet under "CN".

Sunday, 11/3/13

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Crosswords LA 2013

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Crosswords LA was held October 26, 2012 at the Santa Monica Place. Elissa Grossman, director; Tyler Hinman, puzzle editor. Eric "Qatsi" LeVasseur took home first place. Buy the puzzles here; all proceeds benefit Reading to Kids.

Share your times, and discuss the puzzles (and the tournament action, if you were there) in the comments!

Thursday, 10/31/13

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I'll have a special post up on Saturday to share Crosswords LA solving times.

Saturday, 9/28/13

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Last night was the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Pleasantville. It was a good time as always, seeing old friends and new. Of course, the puzzles were next week's NYT Monday-Thursday (an above-average bunch by Ian, Joel, Paula, and with an auspicious debut, Evan Birnholz), which I solved at the judges' table. Congratulations to all the winners!

Thursday, 9/19/13

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Caught up in three sittings over the last three days. Back to my irregular schedule of solving every other day or so...

Monday, 9/16/13

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It's now been six full days since the last time I solved a crossword - by far the longest of my "career". Feels weird.

Friday, 9/13/13

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I think I'm about to get farther behind in solving than ever before. I'm working long hours (with little downtime) for the next week, but eventually I'll get back and fill in all the little boxes. Some of the spreadsheet boxes will say "untimed", because I'm going to do some leisurely paper solving as a change of pace.

Lollapuzzoola 6, 8/10/13

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Another Lolla in the books! Wrap-up to come.

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: It was another successful day, and a good time was had by all. Everyone was delighted to see Al Sanders win his first-ever crossword tournament, in a close race against Francis Heaney, with Trip Payne in third. Al received a huge standing ovation at the trophy presentation that was reminiscent of the one Tyler Hinman got at the 2010 ACPT (when his streak of five titles came to an end). Not only were the puzzles top-notch, but the overarching theme and metapuzzle were supercool. Congratulations to all the prize-winners, non-prize-winners, and my fellow volunteers, thanks to the amazing hosts Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer, and I can't wait for next year.

Feel free to discuss puzzle specifics in the comments!

Sunday, 8/11/13

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Saturday, 8/10/13

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It's a Saturday in August, which can only mean it's time for Lollapuzzoola VI! I'll have a post up Saturday night to share solving times.

Sunday, 7/21/13

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Sorry about the delayed post! I had these set up so far in advance when I went out of town that I lost track.

Wednesday, 7/10/13

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I'm nearly caught up on last week's puzzles, but I'm definitely going to get behind again this week...

Saturday, 7/6/13

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FNC is the new Fireball Newsweekly Crossword. I assume most of us are subscribing, so I'll throw it on the spreadsheet. I didn't pay for the privilege of early delivery, so I'll see when it ends up arriving.

Tuesday, 7/2/13

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Back on the east coast and headed to Poughkeepsie for two weeks!

Wednesday, 6/26/13

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I'm in San Francisco for a few days, so I can solve some puzzles the night they come out without waiting for midnight...

Tuesday, 5/28/13 & Behind the Puzzle

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I hope you've enjoyed my third (and possibly final) New York Times publication. Scroll down for the backstory!

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This puzzle was conceived in October 2011, birthed last April, mailed in May, and accepted in June 2012. I got the "yes!" email a few days before the Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge, which spawned my previous published puzzle. It's too bad there isn't another Napa tournament this summer, because I would have asked Will if he could schedule today's puzzle to run that week. (Oh by the way, we're not doing another Napa tournament this year. Or probably ever. Our friend who spearheaded it has moved away!)

The theme literally came to me in a dream. I woke up with the idea of "add GE" in my head, but I can't remember if there was a "seed entry" provided by my subconscious. That morning I jotted down some of the words that could be used in such a theme. There aren't too many, because something like CAD/CADGE doesn't work as part of a phrase. The best one that didn't make the puzzle was RECYCLING BINGE.

So I forgot about it until six months later, when I had some time to kill in my hotel room in Auburn Hills, Michigan. I pulled up the notes, made a list of phrases, and picked a symmetrical set of five. I don't generally have the patience for theme development, but the options were limited, so it wasn't hard to exhaust them. I considered having GENERAL ELECTRIC as the last themer/revealer, but that would have been unnecessary, and I didn't have any other 15-letter possibilities anyway.

I borrowed from the Crossword Compiler stock a grid with three 13-letter slots, and removed a pair of black squares to make room for the 10-letter answers. As you can see, I totally lucked out being able to overlap those two pairs of theme answers. (This is what emboldened me to try stacking three in that Sunday puzzle.) The only tricky letter combination created by the stacking is the "NW" in ANWAR. It's not ideal to have four long Downs that each cross three theme answers, but (again, dumb luck) I could use the fun entries IBLEWIT and BREWSKI, which are both NYT debuts. The other two, ORACULAR and GARDENIA, are much less interesting; the best entry for 3-Down would have been SPACEBAR, but that's already theme fodder!

Fill-wise, there are definitely too many proper nouns, and the THICKE/ECKO crossing at "K" could trip people up. But I like proper nouns, and this was the most lively fill I could get. Plus, STEELY. The entry I most wanted to get rid of was ROBB. And of course I love having Breaking Bad dead center.

I submitted it thinking this was probably a Wednesday puzzle (since there's no rationale for the theme), so I expect more of my clues to be tweaked than if I'd aimed for Tuesday. Hopefully it will play as a hard Tuesday, in contrast to my first puzzle, which was a very easy Tuesday. Once I get a look at the published version, I'll update with clue notes and any further thoughts...

UPDATE: About what I expected with clue editing - 23 all-new, 20 tweaked. I'm most proud that all the theme clues went through verbatim.

Trying to be Klahnesque, I had a few more clue "pairs" in my submitted set:
--YUL and ROLE were consecutively clued [The King, in "The King and I"]
--ICE and SALT were both clued [Preserve, in a way]
--ERNST and ARP were both clued [Contemporary of xx-Down]
--but INGEST and EAT weren't both clued [Consume], that's all Will

Other comments:
--The TOP GUN clue was ["Danger Zone" film], clearly not a Tuesday clue but an attempt at an Archer reference.
--I didn't write the "EGBDF" music clue!
--Will changed the clue for INEPT from [Like a schlemiel] to [Like a schlimazel]. Is he wrong? I'm sure it's dictionary-supported, but my Jewy-sense tells me I was right in the first place...
--Of course I had [___ Dan].

Monday, 5/27/13

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I wrote Tuesday's NYT crossword! Check back tomorrow for exclusive inside information.

Monday, 5/20/13

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Today I'm headed back to New York!