Friday, August 24, 2007

are you puzzled?

for much of my life i have been a stone carver and a crossword puzzler. the vocation and the avocation have much in common. for one, both are begun with a rendering.

regardless of the skill of the sculptor, a poor drawing will rarely produce a satisfying piece of work just as a clumsily constructed x-word will not produce a satisfying solving experience.
i find the new york times [nyt] crossword puzzle to be the Michelangelo of puzzledom.

bear with me as i bare more opinion...

as the week progresses from monday through saturday, the nyt puzzles are consistently well rendered, but the difficulty for solvers gradually evolves throughout the week. i liken it to stone carving in a way.

Monday is a mindless activity of oft repeated technique.
Tuesday is having to deal with the patron or the architect…
Wednesday is like making a maquette of soft clay.
Thursday is like carving a sweet, malleable texas limestone.
Friday, a tough, unforgiving, but potentially pristine indiana limestone piece.
Saturday? the pure white carrara marble of puzzles.

(sometimes fri and/or sat are like chiseling granite, but sunday is always a total amalgam, like working with a fairly reliable, but tedious travertine.)

for my 1st and likely only nyt x-word puzzle report i choose 2, sweet, malleable limestone gems published 6 weeks apart…

the puzzle for thursday, july 12, 2007, constructed by michael shteyman and edited by will shortz is...

a typical thursday nyt themed puzzle.

the 4 theme answers are symmetrically placed in the grid like so:

17-A. it might help you take a turn for the better [POWER STEERING]
35-A. ten minutes in a laundry, maybe [WASH CYCLE]
54-A. "you'll have to take my word for it" [TRUST ME ON THIS]
and smack dab down the middle is
16-D. low pressure area [STORM CENTER]

the theme is only announced in the final across as:
65A. word that can precede the starts of 17-, 35- and 54-across and 16-down.
the answer? [BRAIN.]

some other cool stuff in this puzzle

32A. early surrealist [MAX ERNST] (that's max in the picture playing chess in the buff with his wife.)

63A. a lennon sister [DIANNE] (when i was 12 i had the hots for kathy, ok?)

49D. titillating [JUICY] (that's the 12 year old in me you hear giggling.)

ok, so this is gettin' kinda long

and i still have to tell you about yesterday's puzzle?

the puzzle for thursday, august 23, 2007, constructed by joe krozel and edited by will shortz is an atypical themed puzzle with a boatload of homophones (you know, like bear and bare) and an unconventional cluing system that...oh forget it. check out the real x-word bloggers on the sidebar of this blog for an explanation of the very clever theme, but i wanted to point out 3 things that i really liked here.

39A. recondite [OBSCURE] i just think it's a cool word. and yup, that's what brought me out of my cave. go figure...not a real person, but a freakin' word. (see previous post.)

41A. tolerates [ABIDES]

the dude abides.
i like this because in my all time favorite movie, The Big Lebowski, one of the catchphrases refers to the laid back protagonist played by jeff bridges. he calls himself "the dude" and he certainly abides. (though he does have some trouble with having his rug micturated on.)

The Dude: "Yeah, well. The Dude abides."
The Stranger: "The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals."

if you haven't seen the movie check it out. it's a great existential comedy.

66A. pretended to be [POSED AS]
in the grid this one reads as "posedas" which makes me think of the spanish word "posadas" which screams with irony if you're familiar with the spanish conquest of mexico and how christian doctrine "posed as" local cultural tradition in order to win over the heathens...

"This tradition dates back to the sixteenth century and St. Ignatius Loyola, who used an Aztec festival to teach about the birth of Christ. He also wanted to replace the nine-day celebration of the birth of the Aztec Sun god with a Christian celebration."

and for more of that story...
Las Posadas


Linda G said...

Excellent first puzzle blog, Rick. I'm impressed.

Actually, what really impresses me is that you're a stone carver. And I love the way you described the puzzles by relating them to stonework.

Is that one of your pieces in the picture? Beautiful...whether or not you did it.

josephine terese said...

who the blazes arethe lennon sisters?
yes, i went to the link, but still i ask, who the blazes are the lennon sisters?


flintysooner said...

You liked mature women when you were 12.

cornbread hell said...

linda g - you flatter me. thanks. (that reminds me of my favorite x-word clue/answer i've never seen:
more armadillo like on the highway. [flatter].

jt - when i was a kid and my granny babysat on saturday nights we always watched "the lawrence welk show." (sometimes we'd EVEN get to eat dinner in the den if dinner time and that show coincided.) granny never missed it. her crush was the guy with the deep voice. mine was kathy.
but i digress.

the lennon sisters were the 1950s version of the spice girls, except that they were *wholesome* and could really sing...

cornbread hell said...

flinty -
how funny. i was responding to my daughter when you posted this.

(which one of the lennon sisters did you have a crush on?)

flintysooner said...

Ha! Probably Janet. I already had a crush on Annette Funicello who was Kathy's age.

When I moved back in with my mom and dad in '98 we watched the Welk show every Sunday night.

cornbread hell said...

oh my. i think my dementia has already kicked in. now that you mention it, i think mine was janet, too. yikes.

ah well...

Linda G said...

Enough of your Lennon crushes! Did you or did you not do the stonework pictured?

Loved your FLATTER clue ; )

cornbread hell said...

i did that carving and many more for the Reed family. they requested architectural limestone panels depicting reeds surrounding an elaborate glass mosaic grotto fountain i built for them.

oh, i gave them reeds...and so much more.
in each panel i added at least one *hidden* critter.
they did not object.
i think they kinda like the turtle sunning on a log best.
but my favorite is the carving of reeds with a butterfly subtly flittering away in the background.

the egret hunting in the reeds is the only photo i have of these pieces. the smudge? i don't know. dirt? i'd give a dollar three eighty for a good photographer.

but to answer your question...

yes, ma'am.
i created the piece in question from my imagination and i carved it out of leuders limestone. it resides in dallas texas until they tear the house down.

Linda G said...

I am more amazed by you all the time. Seriously.

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