Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Festivus

OK, the puzzle has absolutely nothing to do with Festivus, the fake holiday created in a Seinfeld episode, but I read an article today that it is observed on December 23, which is today, and that it was made up by the father of the episode's cowriter, Dan O'Keefe, who described the proper way to observe the day thus: "Tape-record grievances,sing, drink. Then, maybe wrestle. Repeat until police arrive."  That sounds like my kind of holiday - except for maybe the wrestling part.

So on to the puzzle - I liked it well enough, but as you can see I had some problems down there in the bottom right where I couldn't figure out how to spell KLEIN - I was thinking of Patsy and wanted Cline or maybe Kline (I'm never sure which one is right so it took a few crosses to set things right.  I was thinking Frank Longo's trademark clever wit might be missing though, until I got to the final across clue, "Things that this puzzle's nine longest answers have" and the answer was LINES - and sure enough, they all have "lines" of a different kind:

CHECK OUT COUNTERS  (Ringing-up places)
RULED NOTEBOOKS (Common back-to-school buys)
FILM ACTORS (Hollywood stars, say)
PLEATED PANTS (Slacks with folds)
GENEALOGIES (Family trees show them)
FISHING POLES (Anglers' tools)
WOMANIZERS (Casanovas) My absolute favorite clue/answer
AMUSEMENT PARKS (Coaster sites) My least favorite, because the "lines" are the same as 23a
TELEPHONE SYSTEMS (Operators are involved with them) Are they still?

I also do the NY Times (syndicated) puzzle and I often notice elements in common with the Premier puzzle.  Today they shared references, either in the clues or in the grid, to ulna, Fu Manchu and sashes, and Jerry ORBACH's son is a frequent contributor to the NYT puzzle page.

Miscellaneous thought:  MESAAZ (City near Phoenix, on an envelope) is pretty cool but it sure looks weird in the grid.

There are lots of music videos on YouTube about Festivus, but this one seems to capture the spirit of the holiday best:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

December 16, 2012

This week's offering from Frank Longo is a clever creation titled "Moving Tenpins".  When the puzzle is complete you discover the ten PINS have moved through the theme answers from the beginning to the end, thus:

PINPONGBALL (Table tennis bouncer)
CHOPINETUDES (Piano pieces nicknamed "Winter Wind" and "Butterfly," e.g.)
SLEEPINGPILL (Sominex or Nytol tablet)
PENNYPINCHER (Miserly sort)
LEGALOPINION (Judge's explanation)
NORFOLKPINES (Conifers widely known as houseplants)
PRETTYINPINK (1986 Molly Ringwald film)
WENTFORASPIN  (Joyrode, e.g.)

That's a pretty cool construction trick and if you figure it out early-on (I didn't) it could be a big help in solving the grid because you can just pop the PINs into the appropriate spot in each theme answer and figure things out from there.

The only real trouble I had in the grid was wanting EmbarkING for ENPLANING at 13d, and uar (whatever happened to them?) as the Mideast gp. at 21d, where the PLO had taken over the territory. And I forgot (if I ever knew) that the plural of "frau" is FRAUEN, not FRAUEs - happily I know my pasta, so PENNE saved the day for me.

This was a worthy offering from Mr. Longo.  I had fun solving it and discovering the "gimmick", and I hope you did too.  Here's a song about "moving tenpins" in a whole different way:

(Fun song that apparently never made it onto the pop charts here in the US - I like it and maybe you will, too.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 25, 2012

It's Monday and while I finished this puzzle fairly early yesterday I got caught up with other matters and didn't have time to write about it, which really is OK because honestly, I don't have much to say about it.

Frank Longo's puzzles are often witty with lots of puns and sometimes there are riddles to be solved, but this one revolved entirely around the theme which was PROCESSEDCHEESE.  I like cheese as much as the next guy but making a list of them (AMERICAN/ROMANO/SWISS/JACK/MUNSTER/BRIE/COLBY) just didn't strike me as a lot of fun.

In fairness to Mr. Longo, the types of cheese appeared in longer phrases but all of the clues were straight-forward ("MasterCard alternative" for  AMERICANEXPRESS, e.g.) so not much imagination was needed to produce the theme answers (unless you have never heard of CORKYROMANO, as I had not). The reveal clue at 114a, "Entered seven answers in this puzzle?" for PROCESSEDCHEESE was classic Longo wit and I would have liked to see more of the same in the other theme clues.

Come to think of it, having BALONEY sitting in the middle of all that cheese was a pretty nice twist, too.

I now see that I finished with an error, the cross of 79d (Hollywood's Rowlands) with 99a (___ Green (old elopers' destination). I ended both words with an "e" where an "A" would have produced the correct answers. If GRETNA Green is an old elopers' destination, where do you suppose the young ones go?

I'll be back next Sunday - until then, here's Jimmy Buffett to tell you about the best way to put processed cheese to use: 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012

My Sunday paper publishes two crossword puzzles, the (syndicated) New York Times puzzle which I do faithfully and then I go over to "Rex Parker Does the NY Times Crossword Puzzle" to see what others had to say and maybe add my own comment, and The Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo, which I also enjoy doing every week.  But when I am done with the Premier puzzle I have nowhere to go to share my solving experience - until now, that is!

You are reading the inaugural appearance of my new blog, a place where I intend to record my thoughts on the puzzle and maybe describe parts of the solving experience that I thought were comment-worthy. I'm doing this for my own entertainment but if you feel the urge to join in with your own thoughts about the puzzle, or this blog, or anything else for that matter, please do. 

Frank Longo's Sunday puzzles are frequently punny (some can be real groaners) or involve uncovering a riddle as part of the solving process, but today's construction didn't use either of these gimmicks.  The title was "Game-Time Decision" and it turned out to be a pretty straight-forward solve where the theme answers (as revealed by the answer at 119a) all contained the name of a weapon in the board-game "Clue".  Here's what it looked like when I was done with it:

As you can see, I had trouble in a couple of spots:  in the upper right corner I wanted "It has fonds and a trunk" at 18d to be "palmtree" so I had to wait for the crosses to straighten that out and produce TREEFERN (which is probably a real thing, but I had never heard of it before); and in the lower left corner I incorrectly surmised that a reasonable "Post Hiking problem" (88d) would be "blisters", which was right in an indirect way because they would certainly produce SOREFEET which is what Frank was looking for.

I sailed through the rest of the grid pretty much error-free - oh wait, I see now that I wanted the "Gunpowder ingredient" at 29a to be NITro; come to think of it I don't think I ever heard of NITER, either but google assures me it is a legitimate word:  "Niter (American English) or nitre (most English-speaking countries) is the mineral form of potassium nitrate, KNO3, also known as saltpeter in America or saltpetre in other English speaking countries." So there, I learned something and maybe you did, too.  Hmm, my write-overs also remind me that I first had the Disney World park (108d) as EPsOn, but that's just plain stupid.  TEAURNS (38a) looks funny but it makes perfect sense when you read the clue (They might sit next to coffeepots).

All in all, I liked this puzzle a lot - it was pretty straightforward in the clues but entries like TORSI (113a, Neck-to-waist areas) and LEAPTOVER (Cleared by jumping, 124a), which I loved, kept it from being a LEADPIPECINCH (23a, Cakewalk).

So there you have it, some insight into how Dirigonzo solves Longo.  I'll be back next week with another installment, until then be happy, be safe and QTIP (Quit Taking It Personally)!