Friday, September 14, 2018

Howdy y’all and welcome back to another weekly edition of Respectable Tournament Times with Angela and Will!

W: We’ve been tackling Thursday puzzles for our write-ups thus far, but – thanks to some scheduling changes – we decided to take on a Friday.  Which was a lil bit nerve-wracking, if I must say. We tried our hand at a Friday puzzle three weeks ago and weren’t even able to finish it, much less make a video or blog post on the debacle.  Fortunately for us (and maybe, you!) – we actually kinda killed it this time around? Our time was a clean 16:57, which is good for our second best Friday time ever (confetti falls from ceiling, champagne pops, hell yea).

A: Heck yes!! Sometimes we’ll start puzzles super fast, and get stalled out in a few minutes, sometimes we’ll get halfway through and trip up over the theme, but this time, we just steadily filled out the puzzle at a nice clip. Maybe the puzzle featured less esoteric old movies or groan-inducing puns than usual. In any case, both Will and I were on fire in this puzzle. We started out by combing through the clues for fill-in-the-blanks and trivia we knew, like Boba FETT from Star Wars, or AMAS for “Reddit Q&A sessions”: basically, things we knew would have a high chance of being right without much additional context. Once we got those and boosted our confidence a bit, we were ready to start on the lengthy phrases in the themeless Friday puzzle!

W: So it seems to me that Friday grids typically feature super-long answers, usually in their top and bottom sectors.  Cracking those quickly can then often be the key to a fast time – as they give you helpful hints to their respective crossing answers.  That process was at play here – as we immediately got producer extraordinaire DANGER MOUSE (whose work on the new Parquet Courts record is fantastic), as well as HUNT AND PECK – although that one took a timely Angela correction from my original CHICKEN PECK.  Which I still maintain is a thing! At least that’s what my parents called it when making fun of my typing style in middle school…. Also – check out our video recap for exciting bonus content like our attempts at playing chicken peck charades!  Fun!

A: So Will’s chicken impression in the video is a lot more aggressive than mine. I think he’d get most of the corn and I’d just walk around wondering where the corn was. But maybe he’d be the first to fatten up and be taken to the ROTISSERIE. Wow, sorry. That was morbid. This is what happens when I’m putting together my thoughts for our crossword recap when I’m hungry. Also on the topic of food, I was excited about getting SWISS CHARD, which is a great vegetable that my Asian parents fed me a lot of as a child. It definitely promoted strong bone growth or something like that. I feel like it was probably a vegetable that made me a very non-picky eater and promoted healthy habits later in life. Saute your own and enjoy good health.

W: After the big clues fell into place, it was just a matter of speeding through the rest of the fill.  Almost all of which came refreshingly quick for us. Outside of maybe SHTETL and SEER there wasn’t too much crossword-ese, or for the uninitiated, words that appear with great – sometimes comical – frequency in grids.  And I gotta give props for the amazing SEER clue – that answer is truly an inspiration for so many great, terrible puns. Any clues that stuck out for you, Angela?

A: I was very excited to get BABE RUTH before Will did, which is going to be the first and last time I get a baseball clue before he does. To be fair, we had AL CAPONE there first as an answer to “Member of the 1920s Murderers’ Row” (he did murder a lot of people in the 1920s, after all), and realized it was wrong once we got the HUNT AND PECK clue. But Will was still thinking about the Mafia, and I used his distraction to get the clue! On the other hand, I was super impressed by Will’s knowledge of another thing that happened in the 1920s – Helen KELLER being a founding member of the ACLU! This was quickly addressed with Will telling me that the only reason he knew this was because of crosswords. See, you can learn trivia from doing crosswords.

W: I had a couple of cool flashback moments in this grid.  First being, 27-down about the Mazurka, a dance form that I briefly studied in a music class with the awesome Prof. Zbikowski last winter.  In particular, we discussed Villa-Lobos’ Mazurka-Choro and the Mazurka’s use of TRIPLE TIME, which came in handy here.  After that, I got a smile from the 55 across clue – “Brilliant!” – as it reminded me of the ridiculous, old Guinness ads that used to run constantly on ESPN in my childhood.  If that’s not familiar to ya, please educate / culture yourselves and watch these GENIUS – err – Brilliant! videos.

A: Speaking of being educated/cultured, I had absolutely no idea that writer Nora Ephron had a younger sister named DELIA Ephron, who is equally impressive. So for a while I had NORAH Ephron in our crossword since I was sure that it was she who was a writer and maybe I just had her name wrong in my mind. Nope, I was wrong on multiple fronts. I’m dutifully adding Delia Ephron books to my Goodreads. I’m also adding Parenthood to my Netflix queue, based on not knowing who DAX Shepard was (and also a recommendation from a friend to watch the show!). See, we millennials don’t just watch/read/consume things; we use technology to keep track of all those things. Are we electronically keeping score? Or have platforms simply made it easier to quantify our developing interests? I sense an op-ed in its nascence.

W: Other than those clues, I was thrilled to see HONEY HONEY continue the inexorable march of the ABBA-ssance, a term which you can watch me excitedly define in our video above (pls watch our videoooos pls pls pls).  And yea – I’d say that was a very fun, clean puzzle. No issues that I can think of, just a breezy, enjoyable solve. Props to you, John Guzzetta!

A: Huzzah for the puzzle, John Guzzetta! Building up our morale in our solving skills through an accomplishable Friday. You’re truly making a difference in this cold, harsh world of seemingly-impossible end-of-week crossword puzzles. Ok, so that’s just our current non-respectability – but one day, all Fridays will feel like that Friday, one day!

— Will and Angela

Thursday, September 6, 2018

W: So once again we return to you with a write-up and video of the Thursday puzzle!  We had a great time with this one and even finished with our best Thursday time (19:01) since starting this blog!

A: Woohoo! Let it be known that this is not our best Thursday time ever – which is something like 15 minutes – but compared to our average 35-40 minute Thursday solve, I’d say this is a respectable tournament time.

W: That, however, was definitely NOT what we expected upon loading the puzzle.  Why, you ask? Even though my solving is buoyed by loads of unearned confidence, seeing the constructor name “Jeff Chen” has me pumping the brakes.  Nothing against Jeff, ofc, it’s just that we’ve had some….scary experiences with his crosswords before *flashes back to Lollapuzzoola Puzzle 4, cries a little bit*

A: Upon looking at the puzzle, Will immediately said “Oh [fudge], it’s a Jeff Chen crossword” and then both of us groaned, recalling the extremely difficult clues and the theme we stumbled through on his Lollapuzzoola puzzle. Nothing like the feeling of utter loss when you’re sure you’ve given the maximum intellectual effort you can on a crossword, and you’re only halfway done, and you’re sure half your boxes are wrong anyway… Yes, we still have experiences like that.

W: That said – today’s puzzle was nowhere near that frightening.   We started things in the upper left corner, getting most of it filled in…until seeing SLAM where it should be ISLAM.  So okay, we thought, we’ve run into the theme. Maybe it’s something like “missing eyes?” But then we got MERGES instead of EMERGES and realized that something a little funkier was up.  Thankfully, Angela came to the rescue with a good ol’ fashioned pen and paper.

A: As the self-appointed theme solver of our two-person team, I grabbed a notebook and started writing down the missing letters that I knew for sure were missing, and got IEBERG, which seemed suspicious. I glanced down the clues to look for the theme, and saw that “Hidden trouble indicator … or what you’ll need to finish this crossword?” was the clue. Putting two and two together, I realized the only English word I know that ends in BERG is ICEBERG, and the extra boxes helped me figure out that TIP OF THE ICEBERG was the theme. So what Jeff did here was take a bunch of words whose first letter was I, C, E, B… etc and chop off the first letter. I have to hand it to him, this is clever.

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Detailed analysis of What’s Going On With The Theme?!

W: Once the theme was out of the way, the rest of the grid kind of fell into place for us.  A solid amount of crossword-ese showed up in the top of the grid, including a hat trick of SLAV, ECRUS, and NANA in the second row.  We even got EMUS up there too! I, for one, was thankful for all these familiar clues as it compensated for a trickier theme; however, it left me a little sad that my dream crossword answer / band name EMO EMUS was left off the table.  Maybe next time, Jeff.

A: The overall clue level wasn’t too difficult in this puzzle, after we figured out the theme. Maybe Jeff decided one weird letter thing was enough to add difficulty, and took it easy on the rest of the puzzle. For the clues, I got PRATE and LAPIN, which were words I didn’t even know I knew. I also felt justified for watching hours of YouTube video bloggers in middle school when I was able to fill in RHETT & Link almost immediately. Maybe that’s what inspired me to start vlogging with a friend about fun and interesting topics (aka crosswords).

W: There was also some cool history littering this puzzle – one that Angela and I both recognized was Jerusalem’s Mosque of OMAR.  We used to walk by it all the time when we lived there and studied history last year. Just googling images of the mosque’s exterior places me back on its busy, incense-heavy street corner in the Old City – just steps from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  Check out our video for my brief retelling of why those two holy sites are so close in physical proximity – one of the more interesting stories I learned on that trip.

A: Will and I are always excited when something Jerusalem-related (FALAFEL, RABBI, etc) shows up in the puzzle, if only as a reminder of our study abroad experiences. It’s a way for us to not forget about the time we spent abroad, and the deep dive into history and culture we had for a brief moment. It’s so neat how a little clue in a crossword can bring to mind something that we’d almost forgotten about. There’s an idea: crossword clues as conversation topics for forgetful humans.

W: I also def laughed a bit at a few of these clues – most notably SATAN as the answer to “Leader of the land down under” and the double meaning of JOCK.  I like when crossword answers are juuust dumb and juvenile enough to make me smile. And this puzzle hit that sweet spot in a very good way.

A: Agreed, I thought STRETCHY was cute as the answer to “Like one-size-fits-all garments”, and I lol’ed at DIED as the very obvious answer to “Word on a gravestone”. Though to be honest, I originally thought it was DEAD, which is arguably an even more hilarious word to have a on a gravestone. My gravestone is just going to say “Angela. Dead!” and it’ll be great.

Thanks for reading!

— Angela and Will

Completed Puzzle


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Time: 30:01

W:  So once again Angela and I tried our hand at the Thursday NYT crossword, and we had a pretty good go at it….well, until the final corner that is.  But for now I’m only talking about the happy stuff! For starters, we are proud to announce that we actually, for once in our lives, figured out the puzzle’s theme within the first few minutes of solving!  It all started with 11-across “Light lunch choice” – we already had the S in place from Yosemite SAM, so my brain immediately thought “Salad” ….probably thanks to the monstrous leafy creations I used to make daily at the dining hall.  But something was amiss. We could only fit SAL into the space available. Enter, Angela with the puzzle-cracking theme insight…

A: Wait wait, I’m pretty sure you figured out that “AD” was missing from the two words in the upper right corner, which frankly I was impressed by. Figuring out that type of thing took me a lot of time before I felt comfortable with multiple letters in a box. As someone said to me when I tried to promote the fine art of crosswording: “Is that the sort of thing that people who are good at crosswords do because they get bored by normal crosswords?”, which is maybe true, but in any case is something to watch out for in Thursdays. Knowing that might be part of the theme, I took advice from our dear pal Jeffrey to heart, and scanned through the puzzle clues for something that would reveal itself. Fortunately the theme revealer was straightforward and I confidently told Will to install the AD BLOCK.

W: Once the theme was cracked, the rest of the puzzle fell into place nicely for us.  I, for one, am loving New York Times continue to lead the charge in the EMO-renaissance.  Plus, the more supporters we can muster up in the fight against MANSPREAD-ers, the better.  Those were probably my two faves of the grid – which we *thought* we had completed just a few ticks past 19-minutes, an excellent Thursday time for your two favorite solvers.  But, as you can tell, we thought wrong.

A: We got stumped in the bottom right corner with spelling AREOLA, which is a word I did not know the definition of and do not recommend you search at work. And then we had SEMINAR instead of WEBINAR because gosh darn, I didn’t go to my seminar classes! Attendance? Only required if you’re getting a grade on it. Actually, Will can attest to the time I skipped my graduate sociology seminar class to rake and maintain a gigantic leaf pile in the middle of campus. This was a worthwhile tradeoff, but I did have to dive into the pile and hide when my professor strolled by after I blew off his weekly 3-hour class. (Sorry mom, I know you read this blog.) Anyway, that stumped us and we started feeling utterly at a loss with the incorrect MOS and (AD)EMS, but having no idea what to put instead.

W: Yea, things did get a little desperate as the minutes kept slipping away.  We did follow the Lollapuzzoola example of “google tickets” – a practice I have long-followed but now feel safe to openly admit.  Our googling isn’t ever anything clue related. It’s usually more reserved to things like, “Wait, is MEGAMAN actually blue?” or “Does FT. SUMTER have a P or nah?”  I also may have used my google machine to figure out what the hell a BMOC was too, once we were sure it was right. But hey! If it’s fair game at the crossword tournament, then it’s gonna happen while skyping from my apartment too.

A: After much futile Googling, mostly confirming that all of our other clues were right, we made the WEBINAR breakthrough and finally fixed our errors. I didn’t realize (AD)AMS was referring to the presidents, and if you watch our video, you can see me coming to terms with my poor grasp of American history, live! I blame it on the confusing clue.

W: Overall, we had fun solving this puzzle.  Our last ten minutes of struggle was pretty rough, but the theme was neat, some of the answers were cute, and there wasn’t anything tooo wack included amongst them.  Goals for next time? Only have five minutes of confused, dead time at the end before we finish the puzzle. Oh yeah, and I think it’s high time we bought some kazoos and made a theme song for our videos – what’cha say, Angela?

A: Bzzz bz bz bz bz bz bz BZ! (That’s the NY Times crossword jingle via a kazoo.) I haven’t had a kazoo in my possession for years, so I’m looking forward to this first adult purchase. We’ll have to do some recording before our next video…

Puzzle on!

— Will and Angela


Completed Puzzle

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