Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday's Crossword: "Magazine Stand"

A subtler theme than previous ones. I recycled the clue for 27A from a previous puzzle, so to make up for it, I included more wordplay in other clues. Solution available here.


ACROSS
1. Friend of Jerry and Elaine
5. Drains a maple
9. Utah ski resort
10. Respectful gesture
13. Shakespearean king
14. Like leftovers
15. Part of a s'more
17. Center of activity
18. Belonging to the Irish
20. Actress Long
23. Two of the Spice Girls

25. Attorneys' titles
27. ___ Lay Dying
28. Like string on a spool?
29. Understand
31. What a busy penpal might be
36. "La Danse" painter
37. Royalty org.
38. Many a circus performer?
39. Pulitzer prize-winning musical
40. Christianity to Judaism, originally
41. Talk show host Banks, et. al.

DOWN

1. Composed
2. Olive's genus
3. Tabloid founded by Rupert Murdoch
4. Bog
5. Hitler adversary
6. The Goonies setting
7. ___ Big Adventure
8. Thesaurus offering, for short
10. Weigh down
11. Uno for girls
12. One who frees
16. Dampest, maybe
19. Old money?
20. Fresh
21. Quarantine
22. Steve Zissou adjective
24. Blocked?
26. Fix something crooked
30. Director Gilliam
32. Half of a dangerous fly?
33. Water structure
34. "Daily Planet" employee
35. People from New Orleans
36. Things in an SASE, perhaps

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday's Crossword: "Dinosaurs!"

I'm asked whether I use a computer program to compile the crosswords. In a word, no. In a sentence, I use a blank Excel spreadsheet to create all the crossings and clues. It's "the long route" but it's more enjoyable than anything automated, at least in my opinion.

This puzzle's about terrible lizards. I'm wondering whether 6-Down is a valid clue. Solution available here.

ACROSS
1. USSR spies, collectively
4. "___ me up, Scotty!"
8. Winged thing
11. Water cutter
12. Grapefruit hybrid
13. Pulp Fiction co-star
14. List of favored sites
16. Dodge model introduced in 1981
17. System for bats or subs
18. William and Harry's mum
20. Equine movements
23. Nicholas II, for one
24. Prepares equipment
26. ___ spumante

27. Caesar's bear
28. Alpha kids, sometimes
30. Flair
31. Like the Sahara
32. Man from Riyadh
34. White-___ crane: Mongolian bird
37. Abbr. from a doctor
38. Major Venice exhibition
41. Soccer star Freddy
42. Hence
43. Titanic opening?
44. Attention-getters
45. Attraction at 8-Down, for short
46. Fish in Japan?

DOWN

1. African antelopes
2. Tribe in Northern India
3. The Land Before Time's Littlefoot
4. Donkeys
5. Something boosted
6. Without exception
7. Less spicy than spicy
8. Prehistoric Disney World?
9. Send forth
10. Japanese sauces
15. Minnelli matriarch
19. Like 26-Across
21. Brass instrument
22. ___-of-the-moment
24. Time to be fat?
25. Where to find Mickey Mouse
29. Victor over Vitali
33. Beginning of a wager
35. Tickle-me toy
36. Lucy's love
39. Econ. percentage
40. 1972 Can album: "___ Bamyasi"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday's Crossword: "Kids' Puzzle Redux"

There's a certain plateau, I'm convinced, in terms of crossword-solving ability. You start out doing the puzzles in Zoobooks or Highlights (side note: is Goofus really still lying about the spilled milk? That kid will never learn) and you think, "This is pretty sweet for like, nerd stuff" as you fill in your grid with WILLY WONKA and PORPOISE (both of which I've already used in my puzzles).

Later, when you first become someone who "does" crosswords, you get really good really fast. Most of this skill comes from learning puzzle conventions, patterns, and commonly-used words. Like EPEE (a blunt sword; immensely important but non-toxic) and OTOE (an Indian tribe with perfect vowel structure). Another part altogether comes from accumulated pop culture knowledge and an advanced vocabulary. Ten years ago, for example, I could never have filled JOSEPH CONRAD for 23D: Kind of racist author.

After that your skills pause somewhere between the New York Times' Tuesday and Wednesday puzzles. I think that's where I am right now. Completing Wednesday is 30/70 for me; I can fill in all the squares 30%-ish percent of the time, but usually I need assistance, whether it be from a friend or from Google. Damn you, 15A: Russian Orthodox church feature! Though a quick internet search tells me you're an ONION DOME.

What's more, I think I might be getting slightly worse, despite completing a few puzzles every day. So I drew out this graph to encourage myself to keep the goal in sight. Being a competition-level Saturday solver is really only a few puzzles away. Preceeded by a sharp, painful plunge and a probable existential crisis. Where'd I put my Zoobooks? Solution available here.

ACROSS
1. Former Buccaneer
5. Chat room FAQ
8. Shakespeare's commotion?
11. Like Mousavi
12. Tee finisher
14. 90s kids show crime fighters
16. A Kennedy
17. Org. with hat tricks
18. Comment on a bad essay
19. Largest state
21. Robert ___ Butler
22. Keyboard abbrev.
23. Noted (above!) common word
24. Game with Mustard
26. Pikachu's owner
27. Joel or Ethan
28. Hitchcock classic
32. Reckon
33. One of Goodall's friends
34. Command for Forrest
35. 90s kids show crime fighters
38. Like used butter?
39. Noted (above!) common word
40. Aye it is not
41. Chemist's abbrev.
42. Bumper bruise

DOWN

1. Omnipresent man?
2. The Little Mermaid
3. Frequent Zoobooks cover animal
4. Sack lunch staple, for short
5. "To boot!"
6. Dementor's craving
7. 35-yr. marriage, say
8. Chromosome part
9. One Ramone
10. War of the Worlds adapter
13. Sedentary man's reward?
15. Length for a dress
20. Stroll
23. German food
24. Mexican Budweiser
25. Breathing room
26. Horrify
27. Neutered rooster
29. Greek island
30. One of the Great Lakes
31. Where Brad Pitt might be?
33. Folk singer Guthrie
36. CD-___
37. Jesus or his father

Friday, July 17, 2009

Animation: "The Adventures of Tiger Boy"

video

One of the first animations I drew and still one of my favorites. Inspired in retrospect by the Disney film The Jungle Book (1967). A precocious series of non-adventures that helped me learned how to animate a person walking, a bear-person sleeping, and the ever important "Fin" at the end of any film worth watching. This set of characters would basically start my predilection for drawing children in animal costumes.

Friday's Puzzle: "Pure Imagination"

I skipped yesterday to work on a super awesome puzzle that I wanted to submit to a national newspaper. I didn't finish. Solution available here.
ACROSS
1. Allots
7.
Place for a frog
10. Stage direction
11. Over there
12. Dutch grandma
13. Like Puerto Rico, for short
14. My Little Chickadee star

16. Emergency room shout
18. Month in printemps
19. "___ is me"
21. Austrian painter
25. Moves heavily
29. Lamb opposite?
30. Ship direction
31. Type of power
33. One of the Fab Four
35. Reaction to a nose pick?
36. Edge
38. Partner of Barnes
42. General Lee nickname
46. Lunch time
47. Rower's need
48. Author Wiesel
49. Shoe securer
50. Aloha!
51. Accompaniment

DOWN

1. Winter Olympics feat
2. Father
3. Neapolitan third
4. Sweat lodge?
5. Mr. Chomsky, to friends
6. Be stealthy
7. Usher creator
8. Morning hrs.
9. Not dis
10. Word for the lazy
15. Dahl's factory owner
17. Wade opponent
20. Uncertain sounds
22. Three, to Caesar
23. Jamaican address

24. Star Trek spin-off, initially
25. Vegas opening
26. Last: abbrev.
27. ___ culpa
28. Short title for Jeanne d'Arc
32. Grass appendage
34. Axed, slangily
37. Double agent
39. Birthplace of Beethoven
40. Booty
41. Tolkien creature
42. ___stopper: 15-down creation
43. Role for Oscar winner Jamie
44. "___ we there yet?"
45. Frat letters

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday's Crossword: Five Puzzles Deep

My friend Michael bought a subscription to the New York Times Crossword online and was kind enough to share his password with me! Did Tuesday's in 10 minutes, but I'd have to halve that time to be competitive, and at that point it's just not fun anymore (...right?). Today's crossword is a theme-less wonder, but I think it's my best so far. Solution available here.

ACROSS
1. Start to drop
6. Eastern mystic
11. Christmas thief
13. Courage
14. Fast man
15. Violet beginning?
16. First place
18. CPR performer
19. Edible mollusk
22. Van Gogh's loss
24. Terra ___
25. Soda denomination
27. "Extra! Extra!" callers
29. Sphere
30. Traffic tkt.
31. Like Monroe
33. 28-down, auf Deutsch
35. Poet's black
36. Close-up, in photography
38. Historic Theatre
42. Partners of sirs
43. Acceptable in comparison
44. Great success
45. Supernatural

DOWN

1. Chicken alternative
2. Constellation that crosses the Milky Way
3. Actor Diesel
4. Final stage
5. Learned persons
6. Law & Order spin-off: abbrev.
7. Whip result
8. Rock sub-genre
9. One way to be wounded
10. Roth ___
12. Pile of earth
17. Driver's lic. info

19. ___ Newton
20. Crucial
21. Dolphin relative
23. Dream state: abbrev.
24. Radio regulator initially
26. Like Miley Cyrus
28. Female pronoun
32. Magician's word
34. Bombeck, e.g.
36. Fr. seƱorita
37. Movie songs, abbrev.
39. Application req. often
40. French pronoun
41. Keats' work

My grandfather at the Omni, 1977


Cool photograph my mother dug up. On the left, my late grandfather opening an art show at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta. The woman in the center is the current Atlanta mayor, Shirley Franklin.

My granddad was pretty awesome: he was an artist by trade, and he used to paint political landscapes, weld graceful sculptures, and piece together detailed three-dimensional mosaics (like this one) down by the quiet creek behind his bungalow-style house, listening to Coltrane and Davis, cursing Kenny G.

A few more of his sculptures can be found at the California African American Museum. Thanks, mom!