Shutting It Down


Today's post was the last daily spreadsheet here on Not a Blog. I'll still use this site for public posts on tournaments or other crossword business.

I encourage everyone to continue posting times at Not a Crossword Blog, the spinoff site started by Ken Crowell with assistance from Joon Pahk. It's essentially the same thing, except with automated posting and better design.

Thank you again to everyone who's participated over the years, and I'll see you over at the new place!

Sunday, 10/13/19

Add your times here.

You can also add your times here! The new site is open for business. This is the last daily spreadsheet here at Not a Blog.

Saturday, 10/12/19

Add your times here.

You can also add your times here! The new site is ready for visitors, thanks to Ken and Joon. This site's last daily post will be tomorrow.

Friday, 10/11/19

Add your times here.

You can also add your times here! The new site is ready for visitors, thanks to Ken and Joon. This site's last daily post will be this Sunday.

Wednesday, 10/9/19

Add your times here.

I haven't heard from anybody about continuing a public spreadsheet, either here or elsewhere. If there's a plan, somebody let me know so I can send people to a new location! My last daily post will be Sunday, 10/20.

Friday, 9/27/19

Add your times here.

Dear "Not a Blog" "readers":
I've decided to quit speed-solving for the foreseeable future. The time I have to spend on crosswords has been dwindling this year, and my personal and work lives are going to keep getting busier. For the last 11 years, I've tried to be in peak form when I'm solving the daily crosswords, so I can post the fastest possible times. If it's too early in the day, too late in the day, I'm not sober enough, not in the right mood, I put off solving until I have time to do it "right".

This isn't sustainable if I want to continue enjoying this hobby. This summer I took a six-week "sabbatical" when I was working on two musicals at once, and didn't do any crosswords at all except the ones I'm paid to test-solve. I had to force myself to collect the .puz files and get back into regular solving, and I've still got a huge backlog. I want to keep solving as many quality puzzles as I can, and keep competing in the ACPT, but I'm releasing myself from the self-imposed pressure of sharing my solving times here.

I'm happy to continue hosting daily spreadsheets, but won't spend the time to set up the daily docs and blog posts. This has always been a manual process - it only takes 30-60 seconds per day, but that adds up. Yes, I have typed out "Add your times here." more than 2,500 times. If any of you friendly folks who enjoy the spreadsheet are interested in taking over (either on this site or your own), please get in touch. I've got posts scheduled for the next few weeks.

Now I need to figure out how I'm going to catch up with the 75+ Rows Garden puzzles that have been piling up on my desk...

Thursday, 3/28/19

Add your times here.

ACPT 2019: Eight Is Enough?

No, I'm not retiring. Years ago I promised that if I won 8 ACPTs in a row, I'd hang it up. Since then, it's become clear that I don't have a lock on this thing: I've been thoroughly beaten in the finals by Howard and Erik, and nearly taken down twice by Tyler. It felt good to win the old-fashioned way this year. Now that I don't have any more records or goals to achieve, I'll feel better about it when Erik kicks my ass again in the future, and when Joon and David and others win their own much-deserved titles. I have no plans to stop competing, but the ACPT may be a lower priority going forward.

A few comments (no spoilers) on the puzzle action itself. I solved Puzzle 1 under two minutes, again without trying to - everything just broke the right way, I used the theme to work faster (not usually the case on easy puzzles), and never misread or had to erase anything. On the disappointing side, I failed to solve Puzzle 4 in under three minutes for the first time since my rookie year. It was a particularly tricky one, but I felt like I was on pace, until I checked the clock and saw three minutes had already elapsed!

After the hardest Puzzle 4 ever, we got one of the easiest Puzzles 5 ever, and when I grasped the theme quickly I felt a huge sense of relief - not because I was moving fast, but because it would likely keep Erik from making up too much ground after his error on Puzzle 1. Sure enough, Erik finished the preliminary puzzles essentially just one minute shy of the top 3. If he'd had a chance to obliterate the field on Puzzle 5 (having beaten everyone by three minutes last year), my chances of regaining the title would have diminished.

In the final round, I felt great almost all the way through. The top and left sections fell very quickly before I got stuck a few times. I knew my pace was good, but still worried that Joon or David would pass me while I was puttering around in the center and lower-right sections. Fortunately, even the three wrong answers I wrote in (at 31-Down, 35-Across, and 47-Down) didn't slow me down too much. I was telling people all weekend that I was more confident about this final puzzle than in recent years - not because we all assumed (and hoped) it was by Robyn Weintraub, but because it was a 70-worder instead of the 64, 62, 60-word constructions I'd had so much trouble with. More words means shorter words, and I've seen all the clues for shorter words. Case in point: 4-Down was a gimme, despite being fairly obscure, so it didn't matter that I never understood the impenetrable clue at 1-Across.

I know you're really here for the solving times, so I'll close with those. As always, these are approximate because I check the clock before finishing, not after:
Puzzle 1: 1:55
Puzzle 2: 3:50
Puzzle 3: 4:15
Puzzle 4: 3:10
Puzzle 5: 5:30
Puzzle 6: 3:50
Puzzle 7: 6:45

...And I never got around to posting times from 2018, so in the interest of completeness, here's last year's numbers:
Puzzle 1: 2:10
Puzzle 2: 3:40
Puzzle 3: 4:30
Puzzle 4: 2:55
Puzzle 5: 7:30
Puzzle 6: 5:00
Puzzle 7: 6:45

Sunday, 2/3/19

Add your times here.

Ken says the Universal Sunday 21x21 is also available in Across Lite! It's on the spreadsheet now - "UCS" for Universal Crossword Sunday[-size].