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.)