Unusual diacritic used in Portuguese / SUN 10-26-14 / Lila Oscar winner for Zorba Greek / Yellow diner packet / Long-distance swimmer Nyad / Vice of Dorian Gray / English city where Magna Carta originated / Martial artist Jackie / March birthstone traditionally

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Constructor: Caleb Emmons

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Winners' Circle" —

Puzzle note:

So the letters spell out CHAMPION or DEFEATED depending on whether you enter the winners' or the losers' names, respectively.

Word of the Day: ESCARP (39A: Steep slope) —
  1. A steep slope or cliff; an escarpment.
  2. The inner wall of a ditch or trench dug around a fortification.
  1. To cause to form a steep slope.
  2. To furnish with an escarp.
[French escarpe, from Italian scarpa. See scarp.] (answers.com)

Read more:  http://www.answers.com/topic/escarp#ixzz3HCfkDLd3
• • •

I didn't see the note at first, so I just figured you were supposed to put in the winners … it is called "Winners' Circle," after all. Then I tried to guess what we were supposed to do with all those letters. Wrote them out (in order of appearance, not, as the note indicates, "roughly clockwise" proceeding from the upper left). Got ACHAMNIOP, which was enough for me to see CHAMPION. Then I connected the circles, figuring that perhaps there was some kind of figure I could make by doing so. Ended up with the world's ugliest star. Thought "if this is part of the puzzle design, that is Messed Up." But no, the "star" was my own invention. The part of the design I couldn't see (because, again, I hadn't seen the note and was just following the apparent directions implied by the title) was the fact that inserting the letters of the losers got you DEFEATED. That's ingenious. Didn't blow my mind, exactly, but made me nod in a vaguely appreciative way, which is something. [Note, the reason I didn't see the note at first is because notes in Across Lite are not printed anywhere you can clearly see—you have to notice that there's a little yellow note icon near the upper left corner of your grid, and then click on that]

My only issue with the puzzle (aside from occasional clonks like LOC CIT and IS MAN and IN ROME and O TILDE (!)) is that all of the battles depicted in the crosses are singular and definitive … except that between BATMAN and THE PENGUIN. If BATMAN had, indeed, "defeated" THE PENGUIN, then he would no longer be a character. Does anyone know when / where / how BATMAN "defeated" THE PENGUIN? No, you don't. Because Comics. THE PENGUIN is always alive and well somewhere (most notably, at the moment, on FOX's "Gotham"), and there is no victory. There is never victory. Or defeat. Not of the iconic main characters, anyway. There's just … comics. I can tell you when / where / how all the other battles in this puzzle went down. Not that one. So minus one there.

    A couple of other things. First, you should check out Hayley Gold's webcomic about the NYT crossword, called "Across and Down." She's supposed to have a comic up tomorrow about this past week's meta-puzzle contest, so be sure to check that out. Second, the Crosswords LA tournament took place last weekend, and the entire set of tournament puzzles (specially constructed for the tournament by an all-California cast of top-flight constructors) are now available. Here's the blurb:
    Curated by Crossword Fiend Amy Reynaldo, there are tough puzzles by David Quarfoot and Byron Walden, plus more approachable puzzles by Merl Reagle, Trip Payne, Patti Varol, and Melanie Miller. Also included are a pair of warm-up puzzles from Andrea Carla Michaels and Susan Gelfand -- and a puzzle suite by John Schiff (a team activity).
    Eight crossword puzzles (+ the non-crossword puzzle suite) for just five bucks, with proceeds going to "a grassroots 501(c)(3) dedicated to cultivating a childhood love of reading (Reading to Kids)." Get the puzzles in either .puz or .pdf format here

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    1977 PBS sensation / SAT 10-25-14 / Trumpeter Jones / Musical partner of DJ Spinderella Salt / Singer Aguilera's nickname / Mysore Palace resident / Sci-fi disturbances / Sassiness slangily

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    Constructor: Patrick Blindauer

    Relative difficulty: Medium

    [In lieu of a finished grid, please accept this picture of my dog balancing a cupcake on her head.]

    THEME: none, except, you know, the META

    Word of the Day: "PIE JESU" (42A: Requiem Mass part) —
    Pie Jesu (original Latin: Pie Iesu) is a motet derived from the final couplet of the Dies irae and often included in musical settings of the Requiem Mass. // The settings of the Requiem Mass by Luigi Cherubini, Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Duruflé, John Rutter, Karl Jenkins and Fredrik Sixten include a Pie Jesu as an independent movement. Of all these, by far the best known is the Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem. Camille Saint-Saëns said of Fauré's Pie Jesu that "[J]ust as Mozart's is the only Ave verum corpus, this is the only Pie Jesu".
    Andrew Lloyd Webber's setting of Pie Jesu in his Requiem (1985) has also become well known. It has been recorded by Sarah BrightmanJackie EvanchoSissel KyrkjebøMarie OsmondAnna Netrebko, and others. Performed by Sarah Brightman and Paul Miles-Kingston, it was a certified Silver hit in the UK in 1985. (wikipedia)
    • • •

    So I'm playing along with Management (NYT Management) and not posting the grid. Because Contest. Even though most people don't give a rap about the contest and would just as soon know what the meta is right now. I know, man. Believe me. I hear you. But since you don't even have to fully solve today's puzzle to get the meta-puzzle clues, I'm not sure how necessary a grid reveal is. If you were able to unveil the meta clues in today's puzzle *and* you have experience solving metas, then getting the answer should be a cinch. But don't feel bad if you're stumped. Many people's initial forays into meta-puzzling are fruitless and frustrating. But I love a good meta, and this one is at least good. My only problem is … I was right. About earlier grids—they were made weaker, fill-wise, because they were meta-weight-bearing, i.e. if there'd been no meta, Every Single One of the themed puzzles this week would've been better. But … on the whole, the puzzles weren't what I'd call "bad," and the meta is really quite nice.

    I knew what the meta was before I solved this puzzle. I got an email from a well-known constructor telling me she was able to grok the meta early based on comments I'd made on my blog. This was surprising to me, as I had not solved the meta yet, and so anything I revealed via my blog was entirely accidental. So I made her tell me what it was I said that tipped her, and I was able to figure out the theme from there. My initial hunches were all good—there was just one little connection that I, a reasonably seasoned meta-solver, should've made, but didn't (a connection laid out pretty explicitly in today's grid). When she told me (or hinted at it, anyway), I did a sincere and hearty "D'oh!" The trick is something out of Meta-Solving 101, Rexy! Maybe 102. Anyway, many top meta-solvers were able to smoke out the meta answer early. I wasn't really trying very hard, but still, I think I should've seen what was up, considering I was sniffing around the right places.

    OK, so … yeah. See you tomorrow, maybe. I forget what the prize is for this contest, but I hope you win it.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


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