A Roman Empire (#39)

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Solution
House3

Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 39!

New puzzle up, and I think it’s very “theme-aggressive”. Hopefully that makes more sense when you’re solving it. For the five theme answers, the 2 9- and the 16-letter entries were set, but finding two more that would be good theme entries would slightly harder, but I think the five answers here are great. Hope you enjoy it.

Lots of announcements, so let’s get rolling.

1) Lollapuzzoola 8 is August 8th. You should go to it if at all possible. Sadly, I can’t be there in person (School, am I right?), but I will be buying the At-Home Division. No matter what, you needs to get these puzzles.

2) Big thanks to constructor Andrew Ries over at Aries Puzzles for including me in his recent recap of indie puzzles. He also had a succinct tweet about the recap that went like this:

Ries

So, this was one of the most awesome tweets I’ve ever read. And I appreciate friend-of-the-show Neville Fogarty for favoriting it.

I especially enjoyed his line on the recap reading “Chris is a budding constructor whose skills have noticeably improved over the last few months”. While I agree I’ve gotten better over the last few months, I started to wonder if there was a tipping point for the website. In my best guess, I’m going to say that #24 was the beginning of the mass improvement. One major factor in this estimation comes from when Matt Gaffney included the URL to this blog in a puzzle the Friday before #24 was published. Since then, I’ve had better web traffic, and it means that I’m more on my A-game. So, I think I’ve done better as a constructor in the sense that more people are now watching mean, and I REALLY don’t want to screw up.

And hey, you get better when you go along. I’ve written four puzzle hunts (so far!) as a part of the USC Puzzle Hunt. When I was recently trying to list my favorites, almost all of them came from the 2014 and 2015 Hunts, as opposed to the 2012 and 2013 Hunts. While those early puzzle hunts have lots of great ideas and puzzles, the more recent ones are more refined and just better in general. I think the same thing can be said about my crossword writing. I made this blog so that I could get better at crossword writing. And I do indeed think I’m getting better.

Again, thanks Andrew for the kind praise!

3) Speaking of puzzle hunts, I got my coin for winning the MIT Mystery Hunt in the mail this week!

Coin

Thanks to teammate Rachel Groynom (known to you NPLers as Rock*) for shipping it to me.

4) In the puzzle recommendation section, I want to promote Jeff Chen’s AV Club puzzle “Wearing Thin” found here, and friend-of-the-show Erik Agard’s puzzle “Themeless 36” found here. Both of those were a ton of fun to solve.

Also, Patrick Berry’s recent puzzle “Middle of the Road” (found here) is apparently the greatest thing since crossed bread. I’m sure it is an amazing puzzle, but I don’t know for sure since I haven’t solved it. Unfortunately, two of my weakest puzzle areas are cryptics and logic, so this one hits me twice. However, those puzzle people who are good at those things have praised it as an all-time greatest. So, be sure to check it out, and I’ll let you know if I crack it.

5) Next week puzzle is #40 which means we’ll have a meta! And like I promised last time after the extremely hard award-nominated meta from last time, next week’s puzzle will play like a MGWCC Week 1. Then the week after, #41, will be a variety edition! I’ll be posting a meta suite in lieu of a crossword. The suite plays similar to a Panda Magazine edition, and was written for some co-workers of mine. Don’t worry, it’ll be easy.

6) As you Internet-savvy people know, Alexa.com is a website that ranks websites by amount of traffic and links, which can now be found in list form. Google is globally ranked #1. Youtube is #3. Alexa itself is #2,132.

Chriswords.com is [drumroll] #20,523,573! That seems….not high. So, since you know that we at Chris Words love to apply statistics to things, here’s some research to see which sites of the crossworld get the most hits. Focus on indie people and review sites. Links not included since you can find most on the right side of either mine or another crossword site.

WARNING: Long list of numbers that came from a website that generates numbers somehow. Websites used is the main page of that person’s enterprise. Do not judge any website with any other website on simply the Alexa score. Your own website might be listed below. Alexa can’t pick up on things like a blog on the New York Times site or a subsection of the University of Minnesota’s chemistry department. Some of these sites really just operate through email, and the homepage is just a front. All of the websites listed below are incredibly important to the crossword community, and we’d be in a poorer world if any of them weren’t around.

#138,974 = Rex Parker
#460,488 = Cruciverb
#482,573 = Crossword Fiend
#539,359 = Crossword Corner
#730,730 = Brendan Emmett Quigley
#1,384,515 = xwordinfo.com
#1,529,740 = Evan Birnholz
#1,819,650 = MGWCC
#1,965,442 = Andy Kravis
#2,363,853 = ACPT
#2,705,993 = AVXWord.com
#4,339,658 = The Indie 500
#4,760,480 = Erik Agard
#5,031,611 = Pete Muller
#5,072,472 = Across and Down
#5,442,167 = Tim Croce
#5,818,062 = Todd McClary
#5,846,536 = Trip Payne
#6,596,559 = Patrick Blindauer
#6,665,399 = Elizabeth Gorski
#6,871,168 = Tyler Hinman
#7,279,963 = Patrick Berry
#7.928,216 = Gaffney on Crosswords
#7,997,122 = Sam Ezersky
#10,347,250 = Matt Jones
#10,851,208 = Fireball Crosswords
#11,804,334 = Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project
#13,224,604 = Andrew Ries
#14,041,643 = Peter Broda
#14,924,529 = Neville Fogarty
#15,610,020 = Lollapuzzoola
#20,523,573 = Chris King
#23,961,442 = Dan Feyer’s “Not a Blog”

Looks like I need to contact my marketing team! I actually do have several things in mind to make my traffic a bit better than *cough* I’m currently doing. According to Alexa, “The rank declined 16,122,409 positions versus the previous 3 months”. So, here’s to gaining those back.

But seriously, I love this blog and making these puzzle so damn much,

That’s all from me today. Enjoy the puzzle!

Chris

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Themeless Eight (#38)

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Solution
Jack

Hey everyone, and welcome to Week 38! Hard to believe that I’ve written eight themeless puzzles now. My expertise lies in themes and metas, so I’ve been pleased in how my themelesses have come out. Hope you enjoy them!

Just a few of announcements:

1) Chris Words is proud to announce that we have a logo!

Chris Words Logo-Blue v3

It was made for me by a good friend of mine, and I look forward to having this properly display on the website, as soon as I figure out how to do that on WordPress.

2) If you haven’t already, please subscribe to this blog. I want to make sure you get up-to-the-minute updates on crosswords that get posted weekly. The subscribe link should be found on the taskbar on the right side of this blog.

3) Finally, I mentioned last week that a was going to an escape room. Well I did. And we didn’t win.

Click for link.
Click for link.

Besides me, there were three friends who have been a part of various USC Puzzle Hunt (two of which who were on winning teams), and six other people which include two groups we didn’t know, and one group that consisted of girls younger than 13. We played a room called “Queen City Bank Heist”, which involved protecting a diamond from thief.

I was pleased with a lot of things that the room offered, but was disappointed in a couple of things. One early setback was that me and another member of my small group were split off from the rest of the group and confined in a cage thing with very little to work on, and had to communicate to our team members through a rickety communication PA thing. Overall, this one step lasted about 10 minutes, which would bite us at the end.

The other huge setback was [some things changed to not give away spoilers for web crawlers] at one point we received a device that played a long message that culminated in the message “look beyond the sun”. We knew that message would probably get us a key that would send us to the next room. However, it was not obvious AT ALL what that sun was. We ended up using some hints, and somehow we found a faint circle drawn on a wooden supporting post in the room, which had the key behind it. I don’t think there was an exact clue that mentioned that, and the room was only lit by a blacklight, so finding this circle at all was a miracle. After the failed the event, another member on the team kind of questioned it, to which the overseer commented “My room, my sun”. In the puzzling world, this is called “Guess what the puzzle writer was thinking”, and is bad.

He let us know we were basically 92% the way through, and that the only room we didn’t get to featured one of the badass elements that was never seen during the 2013 MIT Mystery Hunt (you can take a guess what it might be).

According to a chalkboard out front, the record stands at 53 minutes with hints. The room is listed as hard, but there is a difference between “difficult” and “a stretch”. I think we suffered from a couple of setbacks involving “a stretch”, and that hurt us at the end. Also, if 53 minutes with hints is the record, you might want to look at tweaking some parts.

Also, no word puzzles. Some riddles, but no real logic, word, or trivia puzzles. Really, it was as if The Riddler hosted Legends of the Hidden Temple (of which I would watch every episode, just wouldn’t want to be a part of. That also kind of sounds like the Crystal Maze, but not really).

In conclusion, my team did have fun and we do plan to come back. We’ll probably pick one of the easier rooms not because of the difficulty, but because we’re hoping for fewer logical leaps. I’ve trained my boys well on how to write puzzles and metapuzzles, so they have a sharper eye that the average bear. Unfortunately, we just didn’t beat the room in time.

That’s it for me today. Enjoy the puzzle!

Chris

South Carolina: Most Likely to Secede (#37)

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Solution
Flag

Hey everyone, and welcome back to Week 37! I hope all of you enjoyed last week’s interview about Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and I would like to once again like to thank Dr. Ken Rubin for the wonderful interview.

1) South Carolina did something right this week. This puzzle is a dedication to show you how far we’ve come. As a South Carolinian, I’ve always been wary of this issue, and I so glad that the flag is finally down. I just can’t believe it finally happened. I was watching live stream of the SC House of Representatives until 1:30am Thursday to see how they would vote, and they finally voted to be on the right side of history. By the way, if you want to read a paper I wrote for a class at USC about the flag, you can check it out [here]. It was written in the fall of 2014, and should give you a better understanding of the stigma it leaves for South Carolinians. I propose what would have to happen for the flag to finally come down, but there’s no way I could have seen what actually happened as a way the flag would come down. Nevertheless, I’m beyond excited that it is finally down, and I hope this opens up some new doors in South Carolina.

2) I’m also super excited that my puzzle “I Could Count on Two Hands” was one of the five nominations for Matt Gaffney’s “Crossword of the Month“! Ahhhh! This is so exciting for me, and I’m glad that my work is making something of an impact! I was beaten by Erik Agard’s first puzzle as AV Club contributor, so congrats to him. Now that Erik is a regular contributor for the AV Club puzzle, he just might win out for all future editions of the Crossword of the Month award.

3) In more puzzling news, I’m about to play my first “escape the room” event this weekend. I’m playing in Charlotte this weekend, and I’ll let you know how I do.

4) I realized that if I ever my puzzles ever went behind a paywall, I could call this paywall “The King’s Ransom”. And so you know, I don’t plan on ever unleashing that pun.

5) If you aren’t already subscribed to me, please take some time to do so. It should be found on the right-hand side of the blog here, and you can get all the puzzling goodness right to you email.

Enjoy the puzzle!

Chris

The X-word Files #2 – KEA and LOA

Wikipedia defines “crosswordese” as “the group of words frequently found in crossword puzzles but seldom found in everyday conversation”. But here at Chris Words, knowledge is power, and everyone deserves a second chance. In these interviews, we learn more about the words that make up crosswordese, and what makes them so great.

Edition #2: KEA and LOA
(KEA has appeared 128 times in the NYT, 46 in the Shortz era)
(LOA has appeared 238 times in the NYT, 73 in the Shortz era)

MaunaKeaMaunaLoa

In this second edition of “The X-word Files”, we travel to the 50th state and learn more about Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two prominent mountains/volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. To learn more about these geographic wonders, we talked to Dr. Ken Rubin, a volcanologist who is currently a professor and chair of the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii. You can check out his personal page here and check out his Twitter page here. We asked Dr. Ken Rubin nine questions about the two peaks, and here’s what he sent us:

MaunaKea11. Mauna Kea takes its name from the Hawaiian for “white mountain”, and Mauna Loa takes its name from the Hawaiian for “long mountain”. Do these descriptions hold true for the peaks?

KR: The names are more figurative than realistic.  Both of the mountains are large and gently sloped, and both get snow at the summit in the winter.  Mauna Loa is larger (it covers more than half of the big island) and has large rift zones, giving it an elongate shaped when viewed from some angles, such as at Kilauea summit.  Mauna Kea is a bit more peaky due to secondary volcanism leading to small cinder cones near the summit in the last few 10,000 years.

2. Maybe the most obvious question to ask about volcanoes: How active are Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa?

KR: Mauna Loa is a very active volcano, usually erupting once every one to two decades.  The last eruption was in 1984.  MaunaLoaEruptMauna Kea is dormant. It has erupted in the past 10,000 years, but not historically.  Hawaiian volcanoes go through a sort of life cycle of increasing volcanism, then stable output, then decreasing volcanism, all related to how the Pacific Plate moves over the hot spot that makes magma in the mantle, sometime followed by a later rejuvenation stage. Mauna Loa is in the stable output stage and Mauna Kea is in the waning stage. Kilauea, which sits on the SE side of Mauna Loa is often called the most active volcano on the planet.  It has been erupting continuously since 1983, and there is evidence of other multi-decade to perhaps a century long eruption in the prehistoric geological record.

3. At 18,000 cubic miles, Mauna Loa is often considered the largest volcano on Earth, while Tamu Massif in the northwest Pacific can also be considered for that title. That debate arises from recent evidence of Tamu Massif being a single volcano, rather than multiple volcanoes. What’s the consensus in the geologic community?

TamuMassifKR: Mauna Loa is a clearly defined, young volcanic edifice that can be observed and mapped on its surface in high fidelity and in the interior reasonably well (by drilling and various geophysical methods), giving us a good idea of the structure.  Tamu Massif is an old, submerged structure covered by marine sediment and for which the internal structure is largely inferred.  The evidence that it formed as a single volcano from a point source of eruption is conjectural and difficult to prove or disprove, but if it were a single edifice (volcano), it would be structured like no other volcano we know on Earth, or the large volcanoes on Mars, like Mons Olympus.  There is therefore no consensus on Tamu Massif, but I would say more volcanologists suspect it isn’t a single volcano than think that it is.  It would need far more study before we can have the data to make the assertion that it is one volcano.

4. How difficult is it to ascend Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa? Can the tops be reached on either volcano without specialized equipment or special access?

Mauna Loa's summit cabin.
Mauna Loa’s summit cabin.

KR: One can drive to the summit of Mauna Kea, which is necessary for staff and service people to visit the sophisticated telescopes there. Snow boarders also go up there in the winter.  Mauna Loa summit can be reached on foot from two trails (the SE, from within the National Park, and the N, from the famous Mauna Loa observatory, where atmospheric CO2 has been monitored since the late 50s).  Both are relatively easy and gentle walks, but at over 13,000 ft elevation at the top, difficult for many hikers/backpackers. There is a small cabin at the Mauna Loa summit for staying overnight, sitting on the edge of the caldera.

Keck5. The Mauna Kea Observatories is a world-class location for astronomical investigations, highlighted with the Keck Telescopes. Why is Mauna Kea such an ideal location for the observatories?

KR: Its position near the equator, its low light pollution from nearby population centers, and the high altitude/dry atmosphere all contribute.

6. What unique flora and fauna can be found on the slopes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa?

KR: Both have many different biome zones, including tropical hardwood forests in some lower elevation locales.  The east sides are wetter than the west, and both reach alpine like conditions at their summits.

Kona7. For coffee to be classified as Kona coffee, it has to be grown in the Kona Districts, cultivated on the slopes of Mauna
Loa and Hualālai. What makes this region so fertile for the coffee crop, and have other crops been grown in the same area?

KR: In Hawaii Coffee does best at moderate elevation (above about 2000 ft up to maybe 4000 or so).  The conditions that make the Kona district so good include a combination of volcanic soil, cloud forest type precipitation, moderate temperatures.

8. Mauna Loa and Kīlauea are both active volcanoes on the Big Island, which leads to lava flow. Just this last December, President Obama signed a Disaster Declaration for the city of Pahoa after lava was flowing towards the villages. What precautions have been incorporated in the residential areas near the volcanoes to prevent and redirect damage?

KR: The best prevention is awareness and an alert system.  Although there have been some efforts at lava diversion here in the early to mid 20th century, it is not currently employed. The gentle slopes, fast and continuous lava effusion rates, and flow inflation styles make flow diversion both a risky business and one with uncertain impacts.  Many people live within high hazard zones at Kilauea because land is cheap (by Hawaii standards), but they own this land being aware of the risks and usually with respect for the occasional inevitable effects of living on one of Earth’s most active volcanoes.

HaVo9. For any visitors coming to see the volcanoes of Hawaii, what are some of the highlights that someone should see (parks, museums, etc.)?

KR: There is much to see and do, most of it outside activities, eco-tourism, and cultural tourism.  Visit the web sites of the National Park Service and the Hawaii Visitors Bureau to learn more. [Links provided]

Chris Words would like to thank Dr. Ken Rubin for answering our questions. Be sure to give him a follow at his Twitter found [here]. We hope you’ve enjoyed our interview, and we hope you’ll appreciate seeing these pieces of crosswordese in a future puzzle.

Chris Words will be back next week with a new puzzle.

The Indie 500 – A Back Track

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

FireworksI think enough time has passed for a spoiler-laden review of the Indie 500 tournament, so why not now?

The Indie 500 was my first crossword tournament ever. I haven’t ever made it to ACPT, and there aren’t really any locations near me that have tournaments (get on your game Atlanta!). But, this was the event I knew I wanted to go to. The biggest reason I wanted to go was to meet the constructors. I’ve been reading their work for so long, and their work is the reason why I started this blog at all. Playing a tournament was also fun, as I wanted to see just how well I could do.

One reason I write crosswords is so that I also get better at crosswords themselves. So, this event marked to see how well I could solve these puzzles.

Here we go, let’s knock them out, one by one. One really awesome thing done for this tournament is a digital representation of the crosswords, so I can see what I did right and wrong. You can see the leaderboard and subsequent digitalizations [here].

Note: The puzzle on the left was my puzzle, the one on the right was the correct solution. I spent more or less maximum time on each puzzle. I hope to improve.

Puzzle 1 – “Welcome to D.C.” by Erik Agard
Puzzle1Indie

This puzzle was awesome. No lie, it was my favorite puzzle of the set. Flipping over the paper revealed colored clues specifically clues that just read ___ LINE, where the blank was filled by a color also used as one of the DC Metro lines. The theme answers were:

18/59-Across: [YELLOW LINE] = I’M SHAKING IN MY BOOTS
24-Across: [ORANGE LINE] = DEL MONTE
39-Across: [GREEN LINE] = PAY TO THE ORDER OF
49-Across: [RED LINE] = BASEPATH
13-Down: [SILVER LINE] = STATISTICS
26-Down: [BLUE LINE] = NINE ONE ONE

In my book, each of these lines are amazing puns. Discovering each of these puns was fantastic. STATISTICS for SILVER LINE is so great, with the “silver” being Nate Silver. The rest of the puns fell pretty quick, except for one.

There are many phrases and words I’ve never heard of, and crossword puzzles love to point this out at me. And for some reason, I couldn’t place what the BLUE LINE clue could mean. I had written down “Nine on a one”, which I didn’t know what that meant, but it seemed….like maybe a thing. The crossing there was at 53-Across [Part of a ring in which a GEM is set]. And I had B?ZEL. I knew it had to be a vowel, and A seemed like a good choice there. It happened to be an E, cause BEZEL is the word there. Blame it on me not having terribly expensive bling. Even typing this out, I should have tried reading the vowels until I landed on NINE ONE ONE, but I guess I blame it on feeling rushed. Ah well.

Maybe I’m biased, since I’ve always loved the DC Metro map, but this was just an awesome puzzle. Having seven theme entries, with two going down is quite a construction feat. So good.

Also a great clue – 65-Across: [SOMETHING SELF-REFERENTIAL ABOUT OUR SCORING SYSTEM. DON’T FORGET TO WRITE THIS CLUE] for LAP. Damn, I do love a good meta reference. And this clue speaks to me, as I often leave similar notes in my software while cluing.

Puzzle 2 –  “Looseness of the Vowels” by Peter Broda
Puzzle2Indie

This puzzle also had a visual element, namely the diagonal lines in 10 different squares. The clues for these combined two phrases whose differences were only found in the vowels. For example, 43-Down: [With 43-Down, reason for taking a bathroom break during a bank stick-up?] was HOSTAGE HAS TO GO, with the vowels sharing the same square. So, lots of theme answers, with my favorites including PATRICK’S PET ROCKS (which clued Spongebob), BIG PAPI’S BAGPIPES, and SHORT SHART.

SHORT SHART. Welcome to the Indie 500. I await the day where the Grey Lady publishes SHART in a crossword. More than anything, I enjoyed explaining to some of the older participants at the event what a SHART was. My definition was “It’s a portmanteau. It’s when you fart, and a little bit comes out.”

Lots of things I didn’t know. AVERS and TEASE UP stand out on this puzzle. Also [Cubes and others] for NISSANS. This is why I solve puzzles. Now I know that a Nissan Cube is a thing.

Also great clues – 1-Down: [One mixing in a studio] for TV CHEF and 44-Across: [School house?] for FISH TANK. Great clues for both. I think lots of people loved the 1-Down especially.

Puzzle 3 – “Candy Bars” by Finn Vigeland
Puzzle3Indie

We now come to Finn Vigeland’s puzzle, who received a cool $500 for his winning entry in the Indie 500 puzzle contest. And a winner it was.

The puzzle itself was stylized with five candy bars found in the puzzle, which represented “C and Y”. The down clues on both side of the candy bars clued as if including either the C or Y (see the picture above to fully see how that might have worked). But, the across clues added the CY as part of the clues themselves. 65-Across [Conflicts with huge blows?] = CYCLONE WARS, 98-Across [Tenure of a self-satisfied pontiff?] = PROUD PAPACY, 41-Across [Character who would have pretty dramatically changed the ending of of “Pride and Prejudice”?] = GAY DARCY.

That last one tripped me up. While yes, GAYDAR is a thing, I did not come up with it. And part of that was the down clue was a reference to “Homeland”. Never seen that show, so BO?D looked like BOND to me.

Never heard of the DC’s area NOVA or what a DIVE BOMBER is. I’m pretty sure I had DIRT BOMBER there, but they didn’t read my writing right. I still don’t understand the phrase TO A MAN. Learn new things.

This was a great puzzle. The +CY on the phrases was fantastic, and each one were very smooth with a fun new phrase. The color visual element was also great bonus element. Something I didn’t realize until after the tournament was that the puzzle is really perfectly solvable without knowing the CY part. Every down word could leave out the C or Y, so PARSEC is PARSE or YEATS is now EATS.

Amazing construction, with lots of pieces that came together. Well deserved $500. In all honesty, Finn was the big winner of the tournament.

Puzzle 4 – “A Cute Puzzle” by Andy Kravis
Puzzle4Indie

Nice, straightforward theme where the French “e” was added to the end of phrases. MIDAS TOUCH become MIDAS TOUCHÉ . JUMBO JET becomes JUMBO JETÉ . IT’S PAT becomes IT’S PATÉ .

This puzzle was a nice break to the brain busters we’ve seen for the last three (and a nice welcome back after the lunch break). I knocked out much of the puzzle, but got trouble in the NW section. The main reason there is not ever hearing the word MASSÉ  before, so [Billiards shot with a nuclear amount of english?] for ATOMIC MASSÉ  just didn’t ring any bells.

PIMLICO [Racetrack that hosts the Preakness] was mighty upsetting that I didn’t know. I should know that. I’m good at sports knowledge. But that one escaped me. Damn it.

Other letters there were just guesses. OTOE for HOPI [Southwestern Native American people]. AUDIT for INTRO [Survey course, for short]. LIMBO for STOOP [Find out how low you can go?]. Man, even those these were all wrong, don’t they look right? Also, not watching “The Brady Bunch” hurt me on 1-Across for how Cindy Brady talked.

Also a great clue – 40-Across: [“___ Many Cooks” (viral comedy short originally aired on Adult Swim in 2014)] for TOO. I’m glad “Too Many Cooks” made it to the tournament.

Puzzle 5 – “Swap Meet” by Neville Fogarty
Puzzle5Indie

Oof. This was the hardest one of the bunch, and I think my grid displays that.

The theme of this puzzle boils down to clues that both begin in the same letter. The Across and Down for those squares make up a “___ and ___” phrase, but the two words were switched. The “1” square began both THICK and THIN, but 1-Across [Numbskulled] was THIN, and 1-Down [Dilute] was THICK.

Lots of paired phrases. In order, THICK and THIN, DUSK and DAWN, SILLY and SERIOUS, VICE and VIRTUE, WAX and WANE, HARM and HELP, NAUGHTY and NICE, and GIVE and GET. That’s a lot of themers.

I just never got this theme. That is probably most evident with the ?AX and ?ANE combo near the center. In hindsight, this is a fantastic puzzle. I was glad that Eric Maddy was able to point out to me what the hell the theme was, while after throwing in a towel.

In the list of “things I don’t know”, I’ll throw in SHAKY CAM, IRISH STEW, COD CAKE, CAIRNS, RATTAN, ENESCO, and NESCAFE. I know I should have known ENESCO, but I didn’t know it then.

Plus, this is the puzzle where I almost won best wrong answer. 64-Across was clued [“Chico and the Man” setting]. I know the S and the A(somehow) are right, so I’m left with ??S??A. I’ll have you know that I was born in 1992, so this reference was completely lost on me. At this point, I need to make ??S??A a geographic place.

After some brainstorming, BOSNIA is what I came up with. To be fair, “Chico and the Man” could easily be a work of 20th century German literature. As a test: take the titles “Beneath the Wheel”, “Peter Camenzind”, “The Glass Bead Game”, “Baretta”, “Demian”, and “Gertrude”. One was a 70s ABC detective drama, and the rest are Hermann Hesse novels. Can you pick out the right one?

EAST LA isn’t a place that’s out my radar. I was trying to play Wheel of Fortune to find a one-word city, state, or country. Besides EASTLA and BOSNIA, the only other locations that fit are LUSAKA, NASHUA, and RUSSIA. BOSNIA has letters that seem to be fine as final letters, so I went with it. It happens.

Fun puzzle, despite not knowing it. Hope to see more Neville soon enough.

Puzzle 6 – “The Final Lap” by Evan Birnholz

This puzzle was the final puzzle, only solved officially by the top finishers of the Inside Track and Outside Track. Sorry for no digital graphic here.

Evan wrote a fine puzzle here. The triple stack in the middle had the wonderful phrases WHAT ON EARTH, PHOTO FINISH, and PIECE OF CAKE. The puzzle was also littered with lots of other awesome things like PENALTY BOX, MOON UNIT, EDIT MENU, PIE CHART, and XRATED. And of course, lots of crazy cluings. [Tight end?] for PHOTO FINISH. [Sales figure, perhaps?] for PIE CHART. Such a nice puzzle to end the event on.

The two finals races were also a sight to see. The Outside Track featured a fast finish by Andrew Miller, but he unfortunately left two squares blank in his SE section. I had to make the comment that “I feel like I saw this in a movie once“. But Joshua Himmelsbach ended up winning the Outside Track.

The Inside Track featured the three heavy hitters of Eric Maddy, joon pahk, and Amy Reynaldo. Long story short, joon pahk is a machine. Such an amazing solve, especially with those clues. Well done joon.

Other notes about the event:
-I’m glad I got to meet so many amazing people at the event, both colleagues and fans of the site. Thanks to all of you who let me know that you enjoy my puzzles. I write this blog for viewers like you.
-The pie was delicious! They had the small pie-like things, and they were amazing. They promised pie, and they delivered.
-This is on my page on the website leaderboard. How awesome is that?
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-I won Worst Handwriting at the event, which is investigated in the previous blog posts [here] and [here].
-My table at the event rocked. I’m glad I got to hang out with the wonderful people that were at my table.
-My song selection was “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker.
-This event was SO FUN, and I hope that next year will involve going to both ACPT and hopefully the second iteration of the Indie 500.

That’s all I have for now. Join us tomorrow, as we look at another piece of crosswordese in a new edition of “The X-word Files”.

Thanks everyone! And congrats to the organizers of the Indie 500.

Chris King, #061