I’m wrapping up the discussion here at The Autofill Project, but have started a new WordPress blog, Life as a Puzzle, with a related conversation on puzzle topics. Check it out!
Default with Spaces: 121019
Transposal: Ouija board accessory (10) / Lowest ACPT ranking that earns an A-Division trophy (5 5)
*** THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS OF UNTHEMELY #49 ***
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I added the Monopoly properties to Default/DWS this week, part of an effort to (re-)add some board-game theme lists. For the “Avenue” properties, I added “Ave” versions, though I didn’t add “Pl” for “Place” properties. When I looked at the the entry ATLANTICAVE, I Googled the phrase “atlantis cave” to see if it was a thing. Apparently there is a Cave Grill restaurant at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas but nothing more substantial for a deleted-letter wordplay base.
This Asian financial institution could be a newsy reference in a current crossword puzzle. Even if the company goes under and starts fading from memory, it could be preserved in crosswords like ELIAN Gonzalez. Neville Fogarty posted the following wordplay puzzle on Facebook. The fact that I’m reposting it in a paragraph on MTGOX sort of gives away the answer, but it’s a still cute find:
Think of a 7-letter currency. Replace its 5th letter with an H to get a slang word for “excellent.”
The titles of Dr. Seuss works was an old theme list for Default, but recently researched Dr. Seuss again for DWS, including some story elements that I missed the first time. One of the new additions was the checker-coated, surprise narrator of Dr. Seuss’s ABC, and her Z-filled name struck me a a fun and challenging seed for a 16×16 Unthemely. The east side of the puzzle has a traffic jam of tricky, non-intuitive entries — AGEMONO, ACURARDX, and DOXING — but overall I was pleased with the 78-word fill. I wondered if the name of Seuss’s creature was possibly influenced by the ZIZ of Jewish folklore (also an entry in the puzzle). I considered using this theory to link the entries together with a clue cross-reference.
Default with Spaces: 120692
Transposal: Website revenue sources (8 3) / Formal meal for foreign dignitaries (5 6)
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I recently added a 30 Rock theme list to Default with Spaces (most of the terms were already in Default). ADSIT, as in the actor Scott who plays straight-man producer Pete Hornberger, strikes me as a name that would be useful in crosswords but I’ve never had the the entry come up in an autofill situation. The entry also doesn’t have any hits in Ginsberg, though it may have showed up in some indies.
I enjoyed learning this term from Mental Floss article about story-telling devices. The Japanese word translates as something like “irritating-adorable” and refers to the character development of an antagonist from hostile to kindhearted. It’s a device that anime fans are acquainted with but I can think of characters in Western television to which the term is applicable: Wilhelmina Slater, Gloria Akalitus, Regina Mills. It’s not always a satisfying development in practice, but it’s nice to have an interesting term for the concept.
Default with Spaces: 120313
Transposal: Serving as a source of evidence (10) / Country’s Olympics Games statistic (5 5)
*** THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS OF UNTHEMELY #48 ***
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I saw a production of God of Carnage last weekend. I had vague recollections of the play from the Tony Awards (it was one of James Gandolfini’s last stage roles) but I didn’t know much about the plot or that it was a French play that was translated to English for its Broadway run and subsequent North American performances. The original play is set in Paris, but the translation relocates the setting to New York and includes a few other cultural changes. One French reference that was not changed in the production was a clafoutis eaten by the two married couples; it inspires a conversation in which clafoutis recipes are compared. The term for a fruit-filled French cake was new to me, and while I can imagine that many New Yorkers bake and enjoy it, a translation to “cobbler” or something more American would have made more sense in context. Is this dessert more common in the States than I realize?
When I added this phrase to Default, I thought the the letters looked good for the second row in a stack and I decided to use it as a Washington Post seed. The entry didn’t work out very well, though it led to a fill I liked in the opposite corner, so I kept the corner I liked and deleted the seed corner. When I retried the entry in an Unthemely, I had better luck using it in a stack in the bottom of the grid than the top. The fact that I stopped correcting Default fill scores at the tens becomes evident when I use an 11-letter seed for a themeless stack.
The center for the St. Louis Blues got some coverage last weekend due to his shootout prowess in a hockey prelim against Russia in Sochi. He has a good crosswordese surname, and, with his initials, he could appear in a cryptic crossword with a clue involving a “kid breaking tie.”
Default with Spaces: 119942
Transposal: Holding one’s horses? (2 3 5) / Now playing (2 8)
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Stephen Chu, the U.S. Secretary of Energy up until 2013, didn’t get a whole lot of crossword exposure during his tenure despite a name with an interesting letter pattern. His crosswordese heir-apparent is Arthur Chu the current Jeopardy! phenom who polarizes viewers based on his predilection for Daily Double hunting. The popularity of Jennings references in crossword clues for KEN confirms an affinity between game show celebrity and word puzzles, so I expect to see more clues for CHU in the coming year.
There is a phenomenon in puzzling in which a solver becomes fixated on the wrong approach to an answer. Once, at the Washington Post hunt, I was on a team that got stuck on a knight’s tour chess puzzle. A teammate had a theory that resulted in our exploring a seedy part of downtown on the perimeter of the puzzle map. The theory was clearly wrong but the teammate refused to abandon it until, close to the end of the Hunt, we discussed our situation with another team that had already solved the puzzle and were given subtle indications to try a different approach. A similar situation occurred last month at the MIT Mystery Hunt as our team was trying to solve the last meta. The intended answer was the aforementioned 55-point entry that refers to a fear of one’s mirror reflection. The means of solving the puzzle was a rather basic numeric indexing into a series of puzzle answers, but out team interpreted the indexes as musical notes and tried in vain to identify the melody that they produced. The music theory had strong enough support that we never found an opportunity to backtrack and try something else. MIT Hunters might label this fixation a “BE NOISY” (a reference to a similar situation from a Hunt many years ago) but the phenomenon could use a more general name.
Default with Spaces: 119413
Transposal: Alternative to Adobe Photoshop (5 7) / Particles in a covalent bond, e.g. (8 4)
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I watched The Croods this weekend, wending my way through Academy Award nominees that are available through Netflix. The visuals were more interesting than the dialogue, but what I ultimately took away from the animated caveman comedy was the set of crossword-friendly character names. EEP was already in Default, as a potential partial in the title of the song “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah” from The Jetsons, but it was scored as a 35. Dreamworks intends to franchise commercially successful Croods as it did with Shrek and Madagascar so I can see EEP getting more exposure, which is good for puzzlers.
And then there are the “anti-crosswordese” entries that are so full of consonants that they essentially require seed placement. This entry could actually be fun to place at 1 Across in a stacked-sevens themeless grid pattern to see what comes up.
A while back I posted the database addition ELEVENFOLD and asked readers for potential clues. I received some impressively specific suggestions. Anyone want to take a crack at OCTILLIONTH?
My dad watched Monty Python’s Flying Circus when it aired on public television in the early 1970s. I watched along with him, and while most of the comedy went over my head I could certainly appreciate the slapstick and visual gags. I maintained an interest in Monty Python and in my college years the episodes were more easily available on videotape and cable. My favorite Monty Python sketch has changed over the years, but when I was in high school, hanging out with a group of friends who were outside the popular circles and fighting demons of resentment, my favorite was “Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days.” It’s a bit disturbing to recall that juvenile blood lust. What is your favorite Monty Python sketch?
Default with Spaces: 118831
Transposal: Beneficiaries (10) / Entertainer who might perform “Danny Boy” (5 5)
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A few years ago I was swapping mp3 files with my friend Tommy and discovered that she had the Sarah McLachlan song “Adia” in her iTunes library. I marked the song for transfer, not because I’m a huge Sarah McLachlan fan but because I thought it would be fun to make a playlist of songs with titles that are significant to crossword solvers. I never made that playlist, but I could imagine the 2014 Romeo Santos rap song bookending McLachlan’s 1997 single.
The Lego Movie is opening to good reviews and a Rotten Tomatoes score in the 90s. The character of Uni-Kitty, voiced by Alison Brie, has a name with a crossword-friendly partial, though online sources differ on the presence of a hyphen. I’m hoping that the IMDb spelling (with a hyphen) is correct.
Default with Spaces: 118538
Transposal: Savory bread twists (6 5) / Failing to stay aware (of) (6 5)
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The Cronut and Duffin now have company with this new pastry creation that appeared in news stories this week. There must be some crossword theme based on these doughnut hybrids. I understand that a branch of Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts is set to open in Denver later this year. Maybe they can serve Doughscuits and Gravy.
After the State of the Union address I added this entry to DWS as “myRA” reflecting the new retirement plan proposed by President Obama. As a Default entry it simply duplicates the name MYRA as in Breckenridge or Hess. Hopefully the retirement plan will catch on and the entry will have a new clue option.
I took a Landmarks of the World A-Z photo quiz on Sporcle and added this partial from the Z answer on the quiz: Ziggurat of Ur. I should probably send partial-hater Jeffrey Harris some blood pressure medication.
Default with Spaces: 117713
Transposal: Oakland NFL cheerleader (10) / Mentioned again (10)
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Something put Weird Al Yankovic on my mind last week, so I decided to start going through his discography for database entries. In my closet have a shoebox of mouldering cassette tapes featuring 1980s episodes of the Dr. Demento show recorded from Sunday night radio broadcasts. The cassettes were my only records of Weird Al songs — I never bought one of his albums. I want to have some more Weird Al in my music library, but I’m not sure if I should take a completist route by buying full albums or pick and choose songs from iTunes.
After a mild weekend, Denver is expecting cold, snowy temperatures for Monday’s commute, and I have a new winter meteorological term for Default. POLARVORTEX is still a more attractive term.
Disney recently revealed some details over its 2018 animated film Moana featuring its next Disney Princess Moana Waialiki. After Frozen’s Anna and Elsa, it’s nice to see that Disney is continuing the tradition of crossword-friendly princess names.
Default with Spaces: 117524
Transposal: Makes a report to headquarters (5 2 2) / Tiny amount (9)
*** THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS OF UNTHEMELY #47 ***
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I compared the list of Golden Globe nominees with Default to find holes and was shocked to discover that I didn’t have JASONBATEMAN. I’ve only created theme lists for a few dozen TV shows, but had never gotten around to Arrested Development; surprising because it is one of my all-time favorites. I worked on a theme list last week with cast and crew names and a few other references such as STAIRCAR, CORNBALLER, HOTCOPS and Dr. Tobias Funke’s disturbing occupational portmanteau of “analyst” and “therapist.” It’s not a great entry for mainstream venues (for obscurity more than breakfast test) but would be fun in an indie puzzle.
Word Spy defines this as “The distance from home or work within which a person performs most of their day-to-day activities; the distance within which a person lives all or most of their life.” Word Spy didn’t explicitly mention the plural, but I assume LIFERADII is defensible. It looks like an answer word for an MIT Mystery Hunt puzzle featured in a round with a constrained meta solution. I scored the plural form as 63.
During the blasts of winter weather of early January, I added the new entry POLARVORTEX to my seed list. Later, I decided that some other indie constructor might use it, so I went with FROSTQUAKE, another recent seed list addition with a similar theme.