Wall Street Journal Crossword: Most Used Words For 2017

As part of my interest to get some interesting data (and a word list), I ended up using the code I used here (refined) against all the WSJ PUZ puzzles released in 2017 and generated a CSV word list, along with counts of the words.

Any questions are welcome, if I didn’t think of them in the questions I wanted answered…

Note: Some of the words will be invalid/nonsensical because some gimmicks involve taking a universal part of a theme set and moving it up or down from the across entry (the WSJ has run at least one puzzle like this in this time frame). So the whole list won’t be that exact or accurate.

Anyhow, here’s some readily identifiable random facts I found:

  • Let’s start with the commonly known rule that a single word generally almost always is not allowed to appear more than once in a specific grid. Applying this rule will make looking at this data a lot easier.
  • I processed 304 PUZ files. This short number is not to be unexpected since the WSJ does not run a puzzle on Sunday or on holidays.
  • The WSJ crossword puzzles used 14,684 unique words in 2017.
  • Of those words, 10,079 were used exactly once. A ratio of words trending towards once is to be expected since most theme entries will be unique. But for some reason, I was surprised that there is this many that only occurred once.
  • 2,230 occurred twice, 980 occurred three times, 503 occurred 4 times, 269 occurred 5 times, 207 occurred 6 times, 114 occurred 7 times, 84 occurred 8 times.
  • This eliminates all but 218 of the words in the list. This entire list has words that occurred in 3% of the total number of puzzles or greater.
  • ERA and ORE occurred 34 times, making them the most used words in WSJ crosswords for 2017. This constitutes 11% of the total number of grids that were produced.
  • A super-majority of the 218 are three or four letter words with a few five letter words sprinkled in between.

Now here’s what I’m sure people were waiting for: The top #100 words in the WSJ according to usage:

ERA 	34
ORE 	34
AREA 	27
OLE 	27
ALA 	25
ALOE 	25
ERIE 	25
ALI 	24
ARIA 	22
ASH 	22
ELI 	20
ERR 	20
RIO 	20
SET 	20
ALE 	19
IRE 	19
ONE 	19
SEE 	19
YES 	19
AMI 	18
ANTE 	18
EDEN 	18
END 	18
ETA 	18
ALTO 	17
ANTI 	17
ISLE 	17
LEE 	17
OREO 	17
ALOT 	16
ELS 	16
EMU 	16
EWE 	16
TEE 	16
TEN 	16
USE 	16
AMEN 	15
ARI 	15
ASIA 	15
ATE 	15
ENDS 	15
SPA 	15
ABBA 	14
ABEL 	14
ACE 	14
ASS 	14
AWE 	14
EASE 	14
EGO 	14
ERAS 	14
EROS 	14
ICE 	14
NET 	14
ORAL 	14
SEA 	14
ALAS 	13
ARE 	13
ARENA 	13
EAT 	13
IDO 	13
IKE 	13
LAB 	13
NEE 	13
OAR 	13
RIOT 	13
ADO 	12
AGE 	12
AIR 	12
ALEE 	12
ANN 	12
ARC 	12
ASSET 	12
EBB 	12
EDIT 	12
ELK 	12
ELSE 	12
ESP 	12
EVE 	12
OBOE 	12
ODE 	12
PSI 	12
RED 	12
SETS 	12
SHE 	12
TIN 	12
ULNA 	12
ACRE 	11
ADA 	11
AGO 	11
ALEC 	11
AMMO 	11
ANT 	11
ASK 	11
ATM 	11
ATOM 	11
BRA 	11
CIA 	11
ETON 	11
EURO 	11
EYE 	11
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BEQ Crossword Answers: Going Too Far

BEQ Crossword: Going Too Far (02/01/2018)

BEQ-20180201-GoingTooFar
Constructed By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Edited By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Source: Obtain and Play This Puzzle Here
Theme: One-Offs
For a number of entries in this puzzle, one more letter is required, which can be gained by the black spaces. This is illustrated above. While it’s hard to illustrate which entries belong to which spaces, I tried to illustrate by using colors on the squares before the relevant black space (might have tried drawing the whole words, but that would have required tracing in the black grid entirely):

  • Red: Black space before the across entry.
  • Green: Black space after the across entry.
  • Blue: Black space before the down entry.
  • Yellow: Black space after the down entry.

Please forgive any screwiness in how I drew in things.

As the blurb by the setter indicates:

Many of the answers in this crossword are one letter too long and won’t fit in the spaces provided. Each of these answers will either begin or end in the square immediately before or after it. When the puzzle is done all these squares will have been used exactly once and the letters in them (reading from left to right, line by line) will spell out a quote by Mitch Hedberg.

There is a quote by Mitch Hedberg. It should read:

I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it.

Glenn’s Time: DNF after 63 minutes (paper). Needed 5 squares to finish.
Glenn’s Errors: 0.

While I have no interest in doing a full blog post on this puzzle, I thought it might be useful to post some answers. It should be useful if anyone wants to see the puzzle’s answers and how the gimmick works.

Edit Again: It’s kind of nuts in the first place to explain what’s going on with this grid, so I reproduced the answers below (black space letter is in RED):

1-A. [___ bath (treatment)] – SITZ.
5-A. [“Buzz me in!”] – I‘M HERE.
10-A. [___ code] – MORSE.
14-A. [West Indian island] – ARUBA.
15-A. [Doing lunch] – EAT IN.
16-A. [TYPE LIKE THIS!] – YELL.
17-A. [California wine region] – NAPA.
18-A. [French wine region] – ALSACE.
19-A. [Five Pillars belief] – ISLAM.
20-A. [Type of hate mail?] – DEAR JOHN.
22-A. [“Grand” range] – TETONS.
23-A. [College where DEVO formed] – KENT STATE.
27-A. [Back from a trip] – IN TOWN.
31-A. [Meshy door part that ventilates] – AIR SCREEN.
35-A. [Roughed up] – MAULED.
37-A. [Needing to hit the gym, say] – FAT.
38-A. [Decaf containers] – URNS.
39-A. [King David’s third son] – ABSALOM.
41-A. [Fighting chance?] – WAR TIME.
44-A. [Mythical bird] – ROC.
45-A. [Plummet] – DROP.
47-A. [More authentic] – REALER.
48-A. [Ecstatic feeling] – EXALTATION.
52-A. [Private liaison] – TRYST.
53-A. [Small talk] – IDLE CHAT.
55-A. [Port barrels] – CASKS.
58-A. [Classic Vans sneakers style with a funky spelling] – OLD SKOOL.
63-A. [Mitch Miller’s instrument] – OBOE.
64-A. [Depressor’s request] – SAY AAH.
67-A. [Sunday songs] – HYMNS.
68-A. [Frida Kahlo’s affliction] – POLIO.
69-A. [Needed a recharge] – RAN LOW.
70-A. [2014 Best Supporting Actor] – LETO.
71-A. [Help out] – ABET.
72-A. [Squid’s container] – INK SAC.
73-A. [Mortise fitting] – TENON.
1-D. [Dow cousin] – S AND P.
2-D. [“Dies ___”] – IRAE.
3-D. [2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee] – TUPAC.
4-D. [Letter-shaped construction piece] – ZBAR.
5-D. [Breakfast slice] – MELON.
6-D. [Trending marker] – HASH TAG.
7-D. [SeaTac calc.] – ETA.
8-D. [Wrestling legend Flair] – RIC.
9-D. [Compass reading] – ENE.
10-D. [Bar snack?] – OYSTER.
11-D. [Move, in bizspeak] – RELO.
12-D. [Editorial bias] – SLANT.
13-D. [Slippery plants] – ELMS.
21-D. [Crown piece] – JEWEL.
22-D. [[I won’t list all the names], briefly] – ETC.
24-D. [Look for evidence] – SIFT.
25-D. [Spitball projector] – STRAW.
26-D. [“___ Is Born”] – A STAR.
27-D. [Inn in Istanbul] – IMARET.
28-D. [Encased] – IN A BOX.
29-D. [Like Dante] – TUSCAN.
30-D. [Suffix with crap or pay] – OLA.
32-D. [In a spooky way] – EERILY.
33-D. [Tangle up (in)] – ENMESH.
34-D. [Enclose] – INSERT.
36-D. [Suburb of Miami] – DORAL.
40-D. [Sacred song] – MOTET.
42-D. [QB Favre and others] – BRETTS.
43-D. [___ chips (trendy snack food)] – TARO.
46-D. [Instagram posting] – PIC.
49-D. [“Sweet!”] – I LIKE IT.
50-D. [Jet points: Abbr.] – TDS.
51-D. [“Ni-i-i-i-ice”] – OOH LA LA.
54-D. [Like some short-term work groups] – AD-HOC.
55-D. [Barry’s nightclub] – COPA.
56-D. [Meat on a stick] – KABOB.
57-D. [Exclusive] – SOLE.
59-D. [MacLachlan of “Twin Peaks”] – KYLE.
60-D. [They make a lot of deliveries] – WOMEN.
61-D. [Suspicious of] – ONTO.
62-D. [“The Mick” actress Kaitlin] – OLSON.
64-D. [Tip off] – WARN.
65-D. [Talk forever and ever] – YAK.
66-D. [Years of French classes] – ANS.

Fireball Crosswords Review: Workarounds

Fireball Crosswords Review : “Workarounds” (2018-01-04)

Fireball-20180104-WorkArounds

Constructed By: Alex Eaton-Salners
Edited By: Peter Gordon
Source: By Subscription Only: See page here.
Theme: Double Meanings
In each theme entry, a proper answer indicated after the word “Doubly” moves into another row, providing a visual representation of another meaning of the word, making it “doubly”.

  • 17-A. [Doubly drunk?] – PLTABLEED.
  • 20-A. [It’ll make white brown] – TOASTER. (answer is really PLASTERED, which is UNDER THE TABLE
  • 24-A. [Start of an alley-oop, say] – ASSIST.
  • 31-A. [Doubly immoderate?] – EXCETOPVE. (answer is really EXCESSIVE, which is OVER THE TOP
  • 43-A. [Doubly stressed?] – PRGUNURED.
  • 46-A. [Actually existing] – INESSE. (answer is really PRESSURED which is UNDER THE GUN)
  • 50-A. [2000] – EIGHTPM.
  • 57-A. [Doubly ecstatic?] – DELMOONED. (answer is really DELIGHTED which is OVER THE MOON)

Glenn’s Time: 56 minutes.
Glenn’s Errors: DNF. I couldn’t get crosses around the gapped part of the words well enough to see what was going on. After I saw the gimmick I was able to finish the grid without any errors.

(Quality) Rating: 4.5 stars/5 stars.
Review:
Fireball Crosswords is a by subscription-only crossword service provided by Peter Gordon, that features puzzles either constructed or edited by him. They often feature unique and creative things. However, the primary pitch is the difficulty as indicated on the website’s pitch: “The puzzles are hard. How hard? If you have to ask, too hard for you.” One will indeed find difficulty in these puzzles, often due to the cluing which is generally far more oblique than the norm, though not as difficult as some other examples people can find, such as the Newsday Saturday Stumper or some of the New York Times Friday or Saturday puzzles.

This puzzle provides a wonderful solve after several weeks off from the typical norm. It provides an interesting gimmick along with some challenging and somewhat interesting entries. While this has a few questionable entries, it provides a wonderful entry back into my renewal subscription of these grids. For those that are interested in finding something different and challenging, I highly recommend this set.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:

14-A. [Its formula has IP in the denominator] – ERA. This would be Innings Pitched and Earned Run Average.

23-A. [“That was some nutmeg!”] – OLE. The same meaning as the typical soccer chants that are clued with this word, but I guess it’s going to a cooking compliment instead?

50-A. [2000] – EIGHTPM. A questionable entry to me. In references I find to this, like this one, military times are always written with colons. In this one, I should expect the clue to logically be [20:00]. No doubt, some shenanigans pulled by the setter/editor to try to make this tougher. But thankfully, Fireball does it a lot less than the New York Times.

60-A. [Filipino dish whose name comes from the Spanish word for “marinade”] – AD
OBO. Never heard of this before, but from what I gather it’s not a dish per se, but a type of dish that is marinated in a specific sauce.

61-A. [Dog in the Newbery-winning children’s book “Call It Courage”] – URI. This happened back in 1941. Never heard of the book until this puzzle.

5-D. [1957 hit for the Bobbettes whose title completes the lyric “One two three
, look at ___”] – MR LEE.

42-D. [Dried poblano pepper] – ANCHO. As seen here, it’s a “a dried poblano chili pepper.”

54-D. [Brace’s partner] – BIT. This refers to an older hand-drill.


Until next time! Feedback about what to consider looking at or talking about, or questions (if I can answer them) are always welcome!

Counting Words In Crosswords

I mentioned previously that a lot of constructors (and people in general), really don’t care about the number of Across and Down entries that are in a crossword. However, the key metric people do care about is the total number of words. This post aims to instruct in an easy way to determine that without counting clues.

The WSJ 12/26 grid, Our Example

count01-wsj1226

1. Start by locating the largest number in the list of clues. In this case, this one is 60. This is almost always the Across listings.

2. Locate all the clues with a number in common and count those. I have highlighted all of them in this grid that are common. There are 12 of those.

3. Simply add the two numbers together. 60+12 = 72. There are 72 words in this grid.

Counting Across and Down Clues

Another interesting question came about in following a discussion. Writing on Bill Butler’s NYT blog, Dale Stewart writes:

Why are there always more Across entries than Down entries?

I had thought originally that that must mean that the Acrosses are shorter words than the Downs.

Am I missing something that is obvious? I really do not know. Can you possibly explain this to me?

Despite mistaking the clue numbers for the actual counts of across and down entries, Stewart comes upon something that’s interesting to look into.

Are There Any Construction Constraints Upon Across/Down Answers?
A further question is put forth by Dave Kennison that adds to the discussion:

… I might insist on flipping some of my completed puzzles (all of them? half of them, chosen at random?) about the diagonal running from upper left to lower right (so that every across clue becomes a down clue and vice versa), necessarily swapping the numbers of clues in the two directions and invalidating your observation for my puzzles …

As it turns out in this case, unless there’s a cogent reason to have answers run in the down direction (e.g. “something up” embedded theme answers), the preference for long or theme answers is in the across direction as people read them most naturally. According to most of the style guides I’ve read on constructing, most editors will reject important answers in the Down direction. Typical crossword constructing software will perform this “grid flip” easily in a setter or editor’s hand, so it becomes a moot point. But it brings out a constraint that we can note in our further discussion.

The Analysis
To look into the original question of ratios of down and across answers in a grid, I collected a number of Wall Street Journal, BEQ grids, and Matt Jones grids. I removed all but the 15×15 grids (the most common), and then wrote software to analyze them and output a CSV with the number of across/down clues and a ratio. I ended up with 294 puzzles in the final output, which I then loaded into my spreadsheet and sorted by the ratio. A small sample below:

(PUZ NAME),(ACROSS),(DOWN),(AcrClues),(DownClues),(Ratio)
938NoBigPunIntended.puz,15,15,27,45,0.6
wsj170731.puz,15,15,37,39,0.948717948717949
993ThemelessMonday.puz,15,15,34,34,1
928ThemelessMonday.puz,15,15,41,27,1.51851851851852

I couldn’t get an attractive looking chart off of this data (too many data points), but one fact came out in observing the Mode of the data (the data point that occurs the most):

Most grids are perfectly balanced (Ratio of 1).

Furthermore, in performing a similar culling of the data as in this study (Mean: 0.926713490721385, Std Dev: 0.094482691813345, 61 outliers total), we can make a few observations:

The majority of grids are balanced slightly towards less across answers than down ones.

1009ThemelessMonday.puz,15,15,31,33,0.939393939393939

This is further shown in the first outlier entries on either side:

jz171012.puz,15,15,35,43,0.813953488372093
990PartyLine.puz,15,15,41,39,1.05128205128205

This would seem that the editing constraint I mentioned above comes into play to pull this data slightly towards the across side.

So What Determines This Ratio?
In looking at Dale Stewart’s original comment, the question above becomes interesting in answering the question. The side effect of this data analysis is that we can identify extreme cases, where whatever property that causes this should be very evident, and investigate further. These are the most extreme cases:

938NoBigPunIntended.puz,15,15,27,45,0.6
928ThemelessMonday.puz,15,15,41,27,1.51851851851852

These both happen to be BEQ grids. In posting to his own web site, he gets to experiment a bit more as opposed to when he is subject to another editor. We will start with the first:

938-AcrDown-01

The large number of long across answers should jump out at you immediately. But we’ll delve a bit deeper. In counting the words:

Across:
4 3 letter words.
4 4 letter words.
8 6 letter words.
2 7 letter words.
4 8 letter words.
1 9 letter word.
2 10 letter words.
2 15 letter words.

Down:
26 3 letter words.
4 4 letter words.
8 5 letter words.
2 6 letter words.
5 7 letter words.

We can definitely note that the larger across words are limiting to the size of the words in the down fill. This is to facilitate completing the grid in an easier way, as often the longer answers are preferred for theme entries or the like. This is especially seen in the next puzzle after this one, which contains 2 triple stacks of 15 entries.

I won’t go into as much depth with the other entry, but I’ll provide a screen shot of it:
928-AcrDown-02

Note that a similar situation to the first example occurs in the Down direction.

Conclusion
In performing this analysis, it seems that the ratio of across/down answers is determined by the relative number of long entries. Furthermore, given editor constraints that important/long theme entries be in the across direction, most puzzles will tend to have fewer across answers than down answers. I also observed that the kind of puzzle (themeless, 21×21) doesn’t make a difference as these kinds of grids appeared similarly in the analysis. Beyond this, I would make the observation that most constructors aren’t going to particularly care about how many Across and Down clues that might exist in any particular puzzle. Whatever results will tend to be from the requirements of the puzzle.

I don’t know how interesting this will turn out to be, but hopefully it was interesting to someone. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to do so below or to my e-mail.

Crossword Puzzles, Timing, Errors, and Ink

In doing crossword puzzles, it’s interesting to hear people talk sometimes in terms of their outlook in doing puzzles. Often times, you will see people talk in terms of times, errors, and the use of ink. The opportunity to address these things came up, and I saw it useful to explain what I’ve learned.

As Steve Wallace writes:

Perhaps someone can explain to me why anyone keeps track of time and errors at all (except in competition, of course). Is a crossword puzzle a test? a speed contest? I don’t think so. I just solve the best I can, enjoying the nuances of the clues, the word play, the theme, etc., as I go. And solving in ink? What is the big thing about that? Just a senseless ego trip as far as I can tell . . . I can not see how making a “solve” a contest adds any enjoyment to the process. Someone is faster/better than someone else? . . . How does that add to the enjoyment?

I can’t speak for the majority of solvers, but I can relate my own experiences and what I’ve noticed. To start with timing and errors, people do keep track of those things for competition. But at the same time, it’s an objective measure of how you did with a puzzle.

To look at what I did when I started doing puzzles, I didn’t much care much about the time I spent on puzzles and wasn’t too strict on errors. I simply was interested in improving, as I still am. I usually didn’t finish puzzles, and I often needed several words to even break into certain parts of a grid. Back then, I measured errors in terms of words.

When the time came that finishing a puzzle without help wasn’t a question anymore, I needed to change the metrics beyond simply finishing the grid. I moved from counting number of words I needed to look up, to number of letters in error. And when I started realizing that a lot of puzzles were getting finished with no errors, I started timing puzzles.

If there is a competition in any way, it’s just with myself. I’ve even gotten old Los Angeles Times puzzles I’ve saved, redid them and compared them with what I wrote on blogs then. It’s fun to see progress and even encouraging, especially when I run into crossword puzzles I still have problems with. Part of my need in doing puzzles is to see that improvement, so in that sense I find an enjoyment in it. I can’t say that’s how others treat it, but that’s how I treat it.

As far as doing puzzles in ink versus pencil, it’s not an issue I’ve seriously addressed. I do most of my puzzles either online through Across Lite, or in pencil since I’m still way too error-prone in the course of doing a puzzle. As I understand it, some prefer ink because it is indelible – and that you can’t cover up your missteps upon inspection of the final product.

While there are objective standards to a puzzle in terms of how much you solved, there shouldn’t be anything that others should say in terms of your progress towards grids. As long as one gets there, there shouldn’t be any pressure from others as to how they get there, as long as they’re honest about how they get there.

The Week Crossword Review : Chain Reaction

The Week Crossword Review : “Chain Reaction” (2017-12-15)


Constructed By: Matt Gaffney
Edited By: Matt Gaffney
Source: Play Online.
Theme: Restaurant Chains
As indicated by 1-A, each theme entry contains two restaurant chains:

  • 20-A. [Two chains merging to form a board game played with music blaring?] – SONIC CHECKERS
  • 25-A. [Two chains merging to form Swee’Pea, all grown up now?] – POPEYE’S BIGBOY
  • 45-A. [Two chains merging to become convenient transportation to the middle of Australia?] – OUTBACK SUBWAY
  • 52-A. [Two chains merging to form a steamy romance novel written by TV host Williams?] – WENDY’S SIZZLER

Glenn’s Time: 16 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 0.

(Quality) Rating: 3.5 stars/5 stars.
Review:
The Week is a general news digest magazine that publishes weekly on Fridays. As part of this publication, Matt Gaffney provides a puzzle which is comparable to the Tuesday New York Times. To that end, Gaffney tends to use a lot more timely clues than the norm, reflecting current news and entertainment trends. Sometimes, Gaffney will use enough of these that Naticks can be produced. Overall, there isn’t too much to commend these puzzles over others, although they are all of very good quality.

In turning to this puzzle, this is a good typical example. The theme is simple, commemorating the recent purchase of Buffalo Wild Wings by Arby’s. The combinations of restaurant outlets are interesting. However the fill is pretty standard, save some other recent news and entertainment items that Gaffney puts into the grid.

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:
6-A. [Band that won the 2007 Grammy for Best Video for “Here It Goes Again”] – OK GO. Never heard of this band. Meanwhile, here’s the song:

20-A. [Two chains merging to form a board game played with music blaring?] – SONIC CHECKER’S This is Sonic. This is Checkers.

25-A. [Two chains merging to form Swee’Pea, all grown up now?] – POPEYE’S BIG BOY This is Popeyes. This is Big Boy.

45-A. [Two chains merging to become convenient transportation to the middle of Australia?] – OUTBACK SUBWAY This is Outback. This is Subway.

52-A. [Two chains merging to form a steamy romance novel written by TV host Williams?] – WENDY’S SIZZLER This is Wendy’s. This is Sizzler. Wendy Williams has a one-hour syndicated talk show that she has been doing since 2008.

65-A. [Ward with the 1979 hit “Ring My Bell”] – ANITA. This is Anita Ward. Notably she is also a one-hit wonder with this song.

4-D. [Chongqing currency] – YUAN. Chongqing is a major city in SW China.

7-D. [Surname of the brothers who recently purchased Time, Inc.] – KOCH. Another example of very recent news.

22-D. [Jewish casserole] – KUGEL. Kugel is a baked casserole or pudding dish that is made with either egg noodles or potatoes.

30-D. [Catherine of For Your Consideration] – OHARA. Catherine O’Hara appeared in the movie For Your Consideration in 2006.

35-D. [Theresa in a recent Twitter feud with Trump] – MAY. Again some recent news.

Until next time!

What Does It Take To Finish A Crossword Puzzle? (Or My History In Learning How To Do Crosswords)

One of my interests in putting up this blog was to hopefully provide a decent place for solvers of all levels to be able to discuss certain issues. This is because I do not find any places on the web that cater to such things. But occasionally, I encounter certain points or conversations that are interesting for comment and exploration, which unfortunately get forgotten in the stream of blog comments. This post is an adaptation of such an instance, where I responded to such a thread, edited for clarity and more thoughts as I have them. Hopefully it will either further the conversation or encourage someone new to all of this by hearing my story.


I read this conversation on “finished” versus “not finished” with great interest (Links provided above for context). Part of the reason is that I got started on crossword puzzles relatively late, as compared to most of the people here as I understand it. Hopefully, a perspective from someone relatively new to this who “grew up” around this stuff will be both helpful and welcome.

In the beginning of the conversation, I echoed Dave, which reflects where I’m at now. But reflecting on where I started about two years ago (one can actually track my general progress, frustration, and answer-seeking on Bill’s LAT blog if they really wanted to), I wouldn’t say I was delusional about what I was able to accomplish. Frustrated, yes, but I could look pretty readily at Bill and others and say that the puzzles were possible.

If I can say anything, the challenge for me throughout has been managing my expectations so I don’t end up completely discouraged from continuing. While this included not “ducking” any of the grids I did, this included trying to test the market everywhere I could find grids, in order to locate grids at my proper level that I had a snowball’s chance to complete, especially for the late week grids. When I started looking at the late week grids, I’d leave them unfilled or with one or two items filled after five minutes.

To describe the history of the puzzles I did, in addition to the LA Times, I started with a very easy grid called “The Daily Commuter” and a Dell “Easy” puzzle book, which I got bored with pretty quickly after two weeks for completing them well. I moved on from there to the Universal/USA Today and Newsday grids, some Sunday specials, the WSJ, and then the NYT when I could get those consistently.

It also included being a little “easier” on my standards than most, but being honest. To that end, DNF for me has always been “Did not finish the grid without a degree of assistance”. This assistance can be Googling answers or using instant “Red letters”, which can be shut off in software. The problem with that I still have is when you check blogs, it’s hard to look at a post from yesterday without catching a glimpse of puzzles you haven’t done for yourself yet – especially seeing the trick of a gimmick grid. Or sometimes, you get a glimpse of the other answers when you check what you’ve done on a puzzle. Hard to avoid being “spoiled” sometimes? As people will remember, I counted from “clues” to “letters”, simply because I was getting better. I recently started timing puzzles that are known quantities because I realized finishing grids wasn’t mostly an issue anymore for me.

As habit, when I would encounter something I couldn’t do, I’d look up as little as I could in order to continue, but would always end up with a completely filled grid. Often times now, I just need one or two in order to finish just about any grid I genuinely don’t finish. I’d use it as an exercise to learn, to see how the clues fit in with the answers, a habit I need to pick up again. Indeed, there is a difference in not being able to do a grid at all versus getting 3/4 of the way through, but if you don’t get to the end of the grid, it’s still a DNF (Did Not Finish – the word “Finish” says something there).

The differing definitions of DNF seem to be a conflict since there are schools within the crossword community that say that using Google is just the same as doing it yourself. For instance, Patti Varol (a noted crossword constructor and Rich Norris’ assistant editor at the LA Times) writes:

Solve all the puzzles. All of them. Even the puzzles that, at first glance, look like the kind you don’t like, solve them. And if you don’t know the answers, look them up. There’s no such thing as cheating at a puzzle — it’s all simply research that makes you better at puzzles.

As I recall, I would say that “Google solved it for me” or something akin to that. Never that I completed the puzzle – merely filling out the grid is different than doing it yourself without assistance.

Then there’s the issue of errors, which are a measure of your ability too. Of course, there’s a difference between filling in letters just to fill them in and real errors. There’s times I’ve simply guessed a letter and got it wrong, and other times I thought I faithfully filled in a grid and found a half-dozen or more errors staring back at me when it came time to check it (it happens!). It’s disingenuous to say you DNF a grid when you earnestly complete it, even when you consider that even the best make errors every once in a while. One thing I’ve been trying for is to get through an entire week of LAT grids error-free, but it really hasn’t happened for this reason or that (Update: It’s happened a few times now).

Anyhow, I think the general moral standards of honesty in this day and age, coupled with technology as it is (good to note that the ACPT is still paper-administered), has clouded a lot in people’s minds in terms of what constitutes real accomplishment. It also doesn’t help when you have numerous editors and constructors “shallowing” such standards. But I think there are objective standards out there that most all can definitely agree upon as to what constitutes “self-accomplishment”. Objective measurement (especially in light of others) is definitely needed to keep one honest, but one has their own measure of “progress”, which definitely shouldn’t be slighted by anyone.


If anyone has any ideas on what to talk about like this, more puzzles to look at, or anything else, feel free to suggest them!

BEQ Crossword Answers: We Have Achieved Peak Puzzle

BEQ Crossword: We Have Achieved Peak Puzzle (11/09/2017)

1002wehaveachievedpeakpuzzle-solve

Constructed By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Edited By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Source: Obtain and Play This Puzzle Here
Theme: Peak Puzzles
There are 4 additional clues given with the clue [Puzzle] under a heading of PEAK. These are names of puzzles that are formed in a “mountain peak” style starting from the clue number given. They are marked in colors on the grid.

Glenn’s Time: 19 minutes (paper).
Glenn’s Errors: 1 dumb error.

While I have no interest in doing a full blog post on this puzzle, I thought it might be useful to post some answers. I mocked up the grid from the original PDF into Across Lite to make it look good. The numbering will be off from what BEQ originally had, but it should be useful if anyone wants to see the puzzle’s answers and how the gimmick works.

BEQ Crossword Review: Party Line

BEQ Crossword: Party Line (09/28/2017)

BEQ-20170928-Party-Line

Constructed By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Edited By: Brendan Emmett Quigley
Source: Obtain and Play This Puzzle Here
Theme: Pub Crawl.
There’s a maze between 17-A and 65-A of drinks as indicated in the two clues:

  • 17-A. [Excursion that starts at square 18 and moves through the grid one square at a time up, down, left or right, never crossing its path, and ends somewhere in 65-Across] – PUB CRAWL
  • 65-A. [How you might feel after consuming everything in the path starting from square 18 (shouldn’t have had a couple on the fourth stop)] – HUNG OVER
  • The path is: CHAMPAGNE, SCOTCH, SANGRIA, PALE ALES, MARTINI, SAKE. (The couple on the fourth stop indicates the plural.)

Glenn’s Time: 15 minutes (paper), 2 or 3 minutes on the maze.
Glenn’s Errors: 0

(Quality) Rating: 3.5 stars/5 stars.
Review:
Brendan Emmett Quigley puts out a lot of good content in a number of places, including his own web site, and this one is no exception. Quigley also provides a number of more contemporary and less formal references than the norm in these puzzles. While crosswords have proved that I am probably sheltered compared to most in what I have to guess, most of the references here are usually interesting in what I didn’t know, if not always entirely fresh and exciting.

As with his other puzzles, this one is a well-done and constructed grid, albeit much easier than advertised. While there’s not too much that’s overly interesting in the fill, the maze adds a certain novelty to this grid.

For all the puzzles I’ve done from this site, it is definitely a recommended source in case you are looking for a good puzzle to do on Monday (themeless) and Thursday (themed).

Unfamiliar/Interesting Stuff To Me:
50-A. [Jewel-_____ Drug] – OSCO. This is a supermarket chain throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. The answer was kind of interesting, as I used to have an Osco Drug around me a long time ago, but evidently it got shut down.

70-A. [Unit of perceived loudness] – PHON. Found this one interesting since one would expect “decibel” here. More or less, a phon is as defined here (confusing?). From what I gather though, the unit was devised as a way to make frequency a non-factor in the loudness of sounds (for example a 60db sound sounds louder at 1000Hz than at 500Hz). Confused even more yet?

56-D. [Vermont ski resort] – OKEMO. This would be the place. Of course, I’ve never heard of it because I’m not from the area.


Until later!