Watch Me Do Crosswords

I started uploading some videos of some crosswords.

Check https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCITmAH40y33hkScv5c2i_VA for that. I’m not anything special as a solver and will make errors, but you can watch. I’ll record every once in a while, but my biggest hope for the near future is to talk through a few for educational purposes to help those that might be struggling with getting into later week stuff.

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Encouragement For Crossword Brain Training

A passage out of the book I’m reading happened to be on topic for crosswords. It’s definitely an encouragement to push beyond your comfort level for crosswords if you’re doing it to keep your brain sharp or building your brain. It’s also consistent with my experience in trying to get better.

Another way to build your brain is by, as researchers call it, “testing at your threshold.” One large-scale project measured to see whether testing at your threshold was able to reverse and cause new growth of neurons and dendrites (the part of neurons that catch information from neurotransmitters). In the project, computers were programmed so that an individual computer essentially understood a subject’s ability in math, and then that computer programmed a test for its corresponding subject that stayed in line with the person’s ability. Once the computer pushed the limit of each person’s ability–testing them at their threshold–the researchers were able to see growth of neurons and dendrites (as judged by imaging scans taken of people’s brains). But the best part is that people didn’t need to get the answers right in order to reap the benefits. Simply testing themselves just slightly beyond their capability (80 percent correct and 20 percent wrong answers) was enough to cause the regrowth. So for you, let’s say you can always do Wednesday’s crossword puzzle, but you get barely half of Sunday’s answers. So while the best thing for your ego may be for you to continue to master Wednesday’s puzzle, the best thing for your brain would be to continue taking a whack at Sunday’s (as long as it’s not so frustrating that there’s no fun in doing it). Just like an athlete becomes faster or stronger by training to attain goals that are just out of reach, you can train your brain to stay smarter and sharper. – “You, the Owner’s Manual” by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. (p88)

250 Most Used Words, A Basic Crossword Aid

I had occasion to generate another word list, this time with all the PUZ files I have in my possession as of today (04/17/2019).

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 3,839 PUZ files.
  • There are 101,860 unique words.
  • All other trends are indicative of what was described in the other post.

It’s hard to know how many to include, to make such a list useful. But I settled at 250, simply because that seemed like it’d cover a lot of the more common words. Now here’s the list, sorted according to usage:

ERA 	195
ALI 	157
ORE 	154
ELI 	150
ALE 	149
ASH 	149
AREA 	148
ATE 	147
ERR 	147
ETA 	145
ALA 	143
ONE 	142
ALOE 	135
ASS 	134
ADO 	131
OLE 	127
ACE 	123
ANT 	123
ARE 	123
EAR 	121
EEL 	120
OREO 	120
SPA 	114
IRE 	112
END 	111
ARIA 	110
ARI 	108
APE 	107
ODE 	107
YES 	106
ERIE 	105
AHA 	104
ORAL 	104
EAT 	103
ERA 	103
TEE 	103
ART 	102
AGE 	99
EDEN 	99
IRA 	98
SEE 	98
ANTE 	97
STY 	97
TEA 	97
ALOT 	96
ANTI 	96
ARC 	96
EGO 	96
ELS 	95
ERE 	95
ILL 	95
TAR 	95
ASIA 	94
ANN 	92
EMU 	92
AMI 	91
ELSE 	91
ICE 	91
AIR 	90
IDO 	90
ACT 	89
NEE 	89
ODOR 	89
AGO 	88
EYE 	87
ORE 	87
PER 	87
ECO 	86
NOR 	86
OAR 	86
SEA 	86
ADS 	85
AMEN 	85
ENE 	85
EPEE 	84
NET 	84
ESS 	82
EVE 	82
SHE 	82
ALL 	81
ENO 	81
INN 	81
OLE 	81
EST 	80
EWE 	80
LEE 	80
TNT 	80
ALEC 	79
IDEA 	79
USE 	79
EON 	78
ONO 	78
ARM 	77
LEI 	76
OMAR 	76
TEN 	76
ABE 	75
ACRE 	75
ANI 	75
ESE 	75
SIR 	75
TOE 	75
TSA 	75
OIL 	74
SON 	74
ARENA 	73
EMO 	73
ERASE 	73
OSLO 	73
RED 	73
SET 	73
ROE 	72
USA 	72
ATM 	71
EASE 	71
ERIC 	71
ALAS 	70
AWE 	70
ADD 	69
ALAN 	69
ALE 	69
ANY 	69
ATARI 	69
AXE 	69
ERAS 	69
AMA 	68
ECHO 	68
RAN 	68
UNO 	68
ABS 	67
ASP 	67
ETC 	67
HER 	67
LEO 	67
SNL 	67
SOS 	67
ARTS 	66
EDIT 	66
ELSA 	66
EPA 	66
ETON 	66
OLD 	66
ANNE 	65
DEN 	65
ENS 	65
IRS 	65
RIO 	65
URN 	65
ALES 	64
EPIC 	64
EROS 	64
EVER 	64
IAN 	64
ION 	64
IRON 	64
ISEE 	64
SAL 	64
ALSO 	63
ARK 	63
ELM 	63
ENDS 	63
IMAC 	63
ONES 	63
OTIS 	63
RAT 	63
SSN 	63
ADA 	62
APT 	62
ASK 	62
ATOM 	62
ETE 	62
OAT 	62
OBOE 	62
STAR 	62
ACHE 	61
AIL 	61
AKA 	61
ANA 	61
ARE 	61
NEO 	61
OGRE 	61
ORR 	61
PEN 	61
TAN 	61
ERRS 	60
ESC 	60
INC 	60
IRA 	60
ISLE 	60
LES 	60
ONCE 	60
PEA 	60
STIR 	60
TIE 	60
ADAM 	59
AND 	59
ANON 	59
EAST 	59
ELI 	59
ELO 	59
ESP 	59
LIE 	59
NED 	59
ODE 	59
SSE 	59
ALTO 	58
ARAB 	58
INK 	58
ITS 	58
RAE 	58
TEE 	58
TOT 	58
AOL 	57
APR 	57
EBB 	57
ELF 	57
ENOS 	57
ETNA 	57
IDA 	57
IDLE 	57
IDOL 	57
RNA 	57
SAT 	57
STE 	57
STEM 	57
ALT 	56
ANEW 	56
ELK 	56
ERIE 	56
IKE 	56
ITEM 	56
OMIT 	56
OPT 	56
PAR 	56
TRE 	56
ACAI 	55
ACNE 	55
ALA 	55
ASAP 	55
ASHE 	55
CSI 	55
EMIT 	55
ENT 	55
EVE 	55
INRE 	55
MEL 	55
NSA 	55
OPEN 	55
RYE 	55
SAD 	55

An Analysis of Wall Street Journal Crossword Puzzle Authorship

Back in 2016, Jim Peredo editorialized about the number of times Mike Shenk constructs Wall Street Journal crossword puzzles. Prompted by this observation, I wrote a program that lists the authors of these puzzles and count them to see exactly how many are attributable to Mike Shenk, the crossword puzzle editor there. Peredo repeated his observations today. This has given me the occasion to repeat the processing and post some analysis.

Shenk uses a large number of aliases in using his own puzzles as editor. This is a common crossword editing practice for several reasons that I won’t go into here. The question is not whether Shenk should be constructing puzzles as an editor, as he is a superb constructor that deserves to practice his craft. The question that has been asked by Peredo is whether the sheer volume of Shenk’s puzzles that appear in the Wall Street Journal reflects an issue:

Well, at the Journal, when 66% of the puzzles come from one individual, everyone else is an under-represented group.

To that total, we must also add the number of puzzles that we know are contracted out by Shenk, most notably the Friday meta puzzles, as he does not accept submissions for those.

So to remove the other possible editorial questions, the only question I have interest in looking into is exactly how many puzzles are constructed by Mike Shenk.

Analysis
To that end, I used the program I used then to produce a list of authors and counts as tab-delimited CSV files. I processed against PUZ files available from the site that sources them (today’s PUZ file), as posted here. The date range I used is the entire time to today’s date that the Wall Street Journal produced a daily puzzle (09-14-2015 to 05-17-2018). I produced a listing of the entire period, but also a listing by years.

To begin, I will list the number of puzzles processed:

2015 - 91 puzzles
2016 - 306 puzzles
2017 - 303 puzzles
2018 - 114 puzzles
------------------
All  - 814 puzzles

Upon first observation, the five data sets are incredibly similar in the names that show up. Other than this, I will keep observations confined to the entire data set of puzzles.

There are 165 constructors/groups of constructors that are listed. This data set is included below along with a raw listing of puzzles processed along with authors:

Count of times that authors have appeared in the WSJ Crossword Puzzle

List of puzzles I processed along with each author

The next problem at hand is identifying Mike Shenk’s aliases and his contractors. I hesitate to do this since I’m not incredibly versed at all of his likely aliases and could be wrong either in listing one or in not listing one. If I am, I am glad to correct things.

In looking over the list, a number of Mike Shenk’s aliases appear. Of the ones listed, those that have been identified or suspected to be known as Mike Shenk on crosswordfiend.com: Marie Kelly (his meta puzzle alias), Alice Long, Dan Fisher, Harold Jones, Daniel Hamm, Gabriel Stone, Damian Peterson, Melina Merchant, Nancy Cole Stuart, Julian Thorne, Ethan Erickson, Colin Gale, Martin Leechman, Maxine Cantor, Charlie Oldham, Heidi Moretta, Mae Woodard, Theresa Schmidt, Celia Smith, Natalia Shore, Becky Melius, Judith Seretto, and Maryanne Lemot.

If we add those together (assuming everything is correct above), Mike Shenk constructed 323/814 or around 40% of the total puzzles published since 09-14-2015 in the Wall Street Journal. We are left with 141 constructors.

The next question is one of contracted for grids if we are looking into the window of open submission space at the WSJ. It is known that submissions are not accepted for the Friday WSJ meta puzzle. Shenk does about half of these, but there are others that pick up this slack. I happen to save meta solutions and have 138 on hand from this period. Subtract the number from Shenk’s meta alias and you get 85 other puzzles. Add this to Shenk’s total and you have 408/814 that were either done by the editor or contracted by him. This amounts to 50% of the total number of puzzles printed.

Conclusion
While this is not Peredo’s original guess, it still represents a pretty high ratio of concern for his original concern. I can’t say I have a huge horse in this race, since I haven’t actually submitted grids yet. But I can say in seeing the claims of concern that looking into this has been an interesting pursuit. I’m pretty sure that I probably got something wrong somewhere along the way, so I’m pretty welcome to any criticism or thoughts that may stem from this.

Edit: I discovered in rechecking the data that I double-counted 11 puzzles (duplicate files from restoring all my WSJ puzzle backups). This post and its associated data files has been modified to reflect that correction.

What Are These PUZ files you have linked?

This is the first in what will likely be a huge sequence of posts providing a walkthrough of some things on Across Lite. I aim to provide some guidance regarding using the program and creating PUZ files, since this site is aimed at newer solvers that are discovering the online side of crosswords.


If you look at my page of crossword links, you’ll notice I have direct links to .PUZ files and links to many other sites that will offer .PUZ files. The rest of this post will relay my observations regarding why I’ve chosen to use Across Lite.

So What Are PUZ Files?
The PUZ file is a generally closed format file which contains the full information for a specific crossword puzzle. Given the general ease of publishing crosswords in PUZ format, you will find many places that will offer PUZ files. This includes newspaper sources and online subscription sources, as well as constructors who have graciously offered their puzzles for free on their websites.

So What Do I Do With Them?
There are a handful of options, but the usual option mentioned for solving or printing out the puzzles is a program called Across Lite that is offered by Literate Software for Windows, Mac, and the iPad.

Why would I want to consider Across Lite instead of web applets?
If you look around, there are a large number of web solving programs in use. Unfortunately, they all seem to have different rules for operation.

You can see this in terms of the controls required, red-letter items entered in error, whether previously entered things are skipped over, and other factors. You can configure each one of the web applets, but what if an option you want isn’t available (i.e. NO red letters!) and you don’t think to before you play each puzzle? Not to mention, all the ads that are on some sites choke out your ability to solve the puzzle.

Then so many of them have proven to be unreliable from day-to-day. For example, I’ve had many web applets that wouldn’t print a puzzle at all, or would print it wrong.

And what if you want to solve a puzzle in a place that doesn’t have Wi-Fi?

Across Lite resides on your computer, along with any PUZ files you download. The settings you make stay, it does an excellent job in printing puzzles, and it provides a consistent offline interface for any PUZ file you obtain from anywhere.

Plus it’s free for download, along with a lot of puzzles people have created. So why not go for it?

Okay, so how do I download it?
Go here.


(Link To Next Post To Appear Here)

Wall Street Journal Crossword: Clue Stats For 2017

I continued doing some stats, and ended up looking at clues for the WSJ crosswords in 2017.

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

Anyhow, I’ll restate a few random facts that are relevant to any analysis of data:

  • 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.

Question 1: Repetition
Now the first question to look at with clues that I thought of involves repetition of cluing. This involves the same word appearing multiple times with the same clue. For example, ALOT appeared with the clue [Heaps] 7 times. Naturally, if a word appears once, the clue used with it only appears once, but a single word can be clued multiple ways.

Some random facts out of this analysis:

  • Words in the WSJ crossword puzzles were clued 24,822 separate ways in 2017.
  • Of those, 23,631 were clued only once. If we subtract the words used only once, there were 13,552 words that were used multiple times that were clued in different ways. This suggests a degree of creativity in how the clues were written.
  • Of the rest, 1,031 were used twice, 126 used three times. This eliminates all but 33 of the word/clue pairs.

That list of 33 word/clue pairs used 4 or more times in 2017 WSJ crosswords (or more than 1.3% of the time) – click to reveal:

ALOT	[Heaps]	7
ALA	[In the style of]	6
ONO	[Lennon's love]	6
ALA	[Copying]	5
ANI	[Singer DiFranco]	5
AREST	["Give it ___!"]	5
ATON	[Heaps]	5
EXERT	[Bring to bear]	5
ONSET	[Beginning]	5
AER	[___ Lingus]	4
AGO	[In the past]	4
APT	[Fitting]	4
AREA	[Vicinity]	4
ARIA	[Diva's delivery]	4
ASTO	[About]	4
ATE	[Put away]	4
CLAD	[Not nude]	4
DES	[___ Moines]	4
EAT	["Dig in!"]	4
EMT	[CPR pro]	4
EON	[Interminable wait]	4
ERAS	[Eon divisions]	4
ESPY	[Spot]	4
EXPO	[Convention center event]	4
IDEA	[Notion]	4
INRE	[About]	4
MIEN	[Bearing]	4
NADA	[Zilch]	4
OPEN	[Ready for business]	4
OVAL	[Cameo shape]	4
PAL	[Buddy]	4
REB	[Yank's foe]	4
SEEN	[Spotted]	4

Question 2: Creativity
The last question I had involved the creativity of cluing. In other words, how many times has a word appeared with different clues attached to them. For instance, UNO appeared 8 times using 7 different clues:

  • [One, for Juan]
  • [Card game with a four-color deck]
  • [Game akin to Crazy Eights]
  • [Start of a Cuban count]
  • [Game with red, green, blue and yellow suits]
  • [56-Down, to Fernando]
  • [One of the Medicis]

Some facts out of this analysis:

  • The number of this list should match the original list, which it does.
  • Of those, 10,294 words were clued exactly one way. This discrepancy with the number of words (215) that appeared only once (10,079) can be explained by different words appearing with the same clue.
  • 2,259 have 2 separate clues, 924 have 3 separate clues, 456 have 4, 248 have 5, 192 have 6, 90 have 7, 64 have 8, 37 have 9, 37 have 10. This eliminates all but 83 of the words.
  • The top of this list bears a striking resemblance to the original list. This says that even with the repetition that the constructors/editor are making an attempt to vary the clues.

    The list of 83 words with the most different clues:

    ORE	30
    ERA	28
    OLE	26
    ALI	23
    ERIE	22
    ALOE	21
    AREA	21
    ASH	21
    ALE	18
    ELI	18
    ETA	18
    RIO	18
    SET	18
    ARIA	17
    ERR	17
    YES	17
    ANTE	16
    EDEN	16
    LEE	16
    ONE	16
    TEN	16
    ALTO	15
    AMI	15
    EWE	15
    OREO	15
    SEE	15
    TEE	15
    ALA	14
    AMEN	14
    ASIA	14
    ELS	14
    END	14
    ICE	14
    NET	14
    SPA	14
    ANTI	13
    ASS	13
    EASE	13
    EMU	13
    IDO	13
    ISLE	13
    SEA	13
    USE	13
    ABBA	12
    ABEL	12
    ACE	12
    AGE	12
    AIR	12
    ALAS	12
    ARE	12
    ARENA	12
    ARI	12
    AWE	12
    EDIT	12
    EGO	12
    EROS	12
    EVE	12
    IRE	12
    LAB	12
    NEE	12
    ORAL	12
    SHE	12
    ACRE	11
    ADA	11
    ANN	11
    ARC	11
    ATE	11
    ATM	11
    CIA	11
    EBB	11
    ENDS	11
    ERAS	11
    ESP	11
    OAR	11
    OBOE	11
    OTTO	11
    RED	11
    RIOT	11
    SCOT	11
    SPAS	11
    STY	11
    TIN	11
    URSA	11
    

    Thanks for reading, and as stated, if anyone has any other good questions to ask out of the data, be sure to ask!

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

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.