Saturday, March 1, 2008

Gotta brag

I'm stoked!

I do the New York Times crossword online almost every evening. They have a feature where you can time yourself against other solvers. I'm usually in the top 10-20% on Monday (the easiest day) and I fall further back in the pack as the puzzles get harder throughout the week. Part of that is because significantly fewer people solve the Saturday puzzle than the Monday puzzle. At least, that's what I tell myself.

They have a standings list for "fastest" and for "first". "First" is the order in which you finished, regardless of when you started. I've made the top 10 list in "fastest" a few times, but I always fall off by the end of the day. I think I made the top 10 list in "first" once. Today, I had my best ever showing on both lists, solving the Sunday, March 2 puzzle (which is put online at 6PM on Saturday).

How well did I do? I placed 5th on "Fastest" at the moment I finished. Yes, I'll fall down in the list, but it still feels great. I placed 7th on the "First" list, and that ranking is mine to keep for the rest of the day. I've never done that well on either list before.

Before you click on "more", be aware that the rest of this posting contains spoilers for the puzzle (including the entire puzzle as a screenshot.)

How did I do so well? Well, part of the reason is that this is the weekend of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, so many of the really fast solvers are busy at the tournament instead of solving the puzzle online. The other part is that I just "clicked" with this puzzle. I was able to work it from top to bottom, switching back and forth between across and down answers, and hardly had to go back to fill in words I didn't get the first time through. I "got" the theme pretty quickly, and that helped me with those answers, too.

Here's the proof: Completed puzzle, showing my "fastest" time.

The theme was kinda cute: In each theme phrase, one letter is "moved forward" in the alphabet from a familiar phrase to create a "wacky" phrase, which is then clued. Most of the time it's the first letter of one of the words, but a few times it's another letter. There are an astounding 13 of them, and most of them are pretty good. Here they are:

1A KOOL BID (Offer for an R.J. Reynolds brand?) from KOOL-AID
29A DADDY SHACK (Papa pad?) from CADDY SHACK
38A GOOD FATS (Canola and sunflower oil?) from GOOD EATS
41A STAR HAZER (Best fraternity pledge tormentor?) from STAR GAZER
52A JV DRIPS (Not the most exciting school athletes) from IV DRIPS
56A LEG PARTY (Social gathering with the Rockettes?) from KEG PARTY
83A SPY BEANS (C.I.A. noggins?) from SPY BEAMS
85A POP RUIZ (Hit boxer John with a haymaker?) from POP QUIZ
93A SWISS MIST (Fog in Z├╝rich?) from SWISS MISS
96A MILK DVDS (How-to films for a dairy farm?) from MILK DUDS
104A LOX PROFILE (Side view of salmon?) from LOW PROFILE
126A COPY BOZ (Transcribe some Dickens?) from COPY BOY

Anyway, I just had to brag.

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