Well, speaking of the dastardly puzzle #5, might as well do a little post-mortem liner notes on it, shall we? It's not too late to get your own copy of all the puzzles here. So if you were thinking about doing it, click away. I guess this goes without saying, but here goes: SPOILER ALERT! I will be talking about this puzzle from now on. So if you didn't want to know why I did the add the names of the members of R.E.M. to well known phrases and clue them all wacky "?" style, read no further! Just throwing it out there, Liz utterly detests R.E.M. In her mind, they're second only to Big Country as worst band ever. Michael Stipe second only to Phil Collins as worst human being ever. No joke.
Well, the bit about the theme being a puzzle with add an R.E.M. member to a well known phrase was a joke. Liz's opinion, however, is never a joke. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, onto the real liner notes.
Will called me up in January and gave me my pick of either number 5 (the bitch mother), or number 7 (the Sunday-sized one). I opted for 5 because 21xs are a whole mess of work. And since anything goes with 5, I figured I could come up with something fun with it. Knowing full well that for those who were going to end up in top 20-ish or so, the majority of the puzzles were sprints. The trend lately has been away from nasty hard puzzles, and more just insanely fast filling in of grids. So, I thought, what are things that slow solvers down? And immediately what came to mind were the dreaded cross-referencing clues. You know the type: "With X-Across, Liz Donovan's least favorite human being ever" / "See Y-Across." I figured, in addition to building the theme around that standard, I'd go all meta with it and require the reader to include the word "with" in the first clue. So for example, the first matched pair of clues read: "Go, with 76-Across" and "See 19-Across." The answer to 76-Across was THE FLOW, so I wanted you to substitute that answer into the clue at 19-Across and reread it as "Go, with THE FLOW" which clued CONFORM. Got me?
Ah, but wait, your puzzle's theme answers were clued in the form "Clue, with X-Across" when the standard form for cluing cross-referenced clues is "With X-Across, clue." Good point. This was strictly accidental, as the theme and grid had been approved and only when I was cluing it did I notice the inconsistency. It might have been a blessing in disguise as I think the shtick was hard enough as is, and if I had done it the traditional way, it might as well have been completely invisible to the point of being absurdly unfair. Über-editor Francis Heaney picked up on the switch and that gave him an edge in grokking the theme.
Let's go for another unintentional design of the puzzle: I made it so that all the "with" clues came first in the puzzle, and all the "See" clues appeared at the bottom. I felt that would be elegant, not fully realizing that by doing so, the puzzle was, in effect, split into three parts. Part 1, parsing the cluing. Part 2, finishing just the bottom half as half the theme becomes fill-in-the-blanks clues. Part 3, working through the top half which becomes a themeless. Whew. I'm pretty happy with that happy accident.
Just a couple more notes. I was pretty pleased with the fill. Wanted to try and get something new and weird in the longish entries. Went with RIFT VALLEY as that was in zero databases I have, not knowing that eventual third-place finisher Anne Erdmann was a geologist and I gifted her ten squares off the bat. Also, Joon reads my blog and got ASHRAMS at 1-Across immediately knowing full well my sister is living on one as we speak. (See, it pays to go to BEQ.com if you want to compete at the ACPT!) As for cluing, I was particularly proud of "Remover of handlebars" for RAZOR and "It might pull a calf" for LASSO.
Oh, and I mentioned I was going to announce the winner of the "find my brother-in-law's father-in-law" contest today. We had two contestants, and at least two more who forgot Stuart White's name and didn't realize they were sitting next to him throughout the weekend. So, I did a coin flip, and in the strangest display of physics, the coin landed on it's side, neither heads nor tails. So both Elizabeth H. Saindon of Takoma Park, MD and Shari Tenca Galvez Guida of Peoria, AZ win. Shari gets bonus points for the BEQ t-shirt. Congrats, ladies. Their pictures are below:
One quick thing: if you enjoyed the puzzles this month, please consider hitting up the tip jar. It might not help your standings at the ACPT, or make you a better solver, but every time you tip BEQ another angel gets his wings. Just a thought. Thanks to all who have given so far.
Share the puzzle. New one on Friday. As well as ACPT wrap-up part 3.