Since we last spoke, I made all of my travel arrangements for the 2012 ACPT in Brooklyn. To say I'm pumped is an understatement. In just 10 days I'll be hobnobbing with the some of the finest crossword constructors and solvers to ever walk the earth, which is really the reason I'm going. I'm registered as a contestant for the tourney, but I fully expect to be humiliated by the Dan Feyers and Tyler Hinmans of the xwordverse. I'm a decent solver - I crush 1, sometimes 2 Post Puzzlers over lunch (depends on the constructor - Karen Tracey's are a pushover, Patrick Berry and I seem to be on the same wavelength so his trickiness is transparent (plus his smooth grids mean no letter guessing), Trip Payne tries to get smart with me but I always come out on top, while Mike Shenk cuts me down to size every time), and I routinely solve most of the major dailies and weeklies. However, to be competitive you need to have speed and deadly accuracy, of which I have neither. Speed-wise, I solve circles around your casual tyro, but I prefer to work at a steady yet relaxed pace, savouring each tricky clue and showstopping entry (plus the constructor in me is forever trying to analyze and appropriate other constructors' clue styles, grid construction tricks, etc.). I'm quick, but I couldn't be arsed to hone my read-3-more-clues-while-you-write-an-answer and just-guess-based-on-the-crossing-letters skills. As for accuracy, I can mostly finish most every puzzle, but it seems I just haven't been at it long enough to know all of the tropes and crosswordese. I'm shithouse at old American gov't abbreviations/initialisms, I'm not nearly familiar enough with the oeuvres of ASTA and ESAI MORALES, and clues like [Civic leader?] for SOFTC get me every time. Throw a couple of these in a tight corner and you'll bring me to my knees. Like I said, though, I'm in it for the schmoozing. If I leave the tournament with fond memories, one new professional contact, and an autograph from Will Shortz for my dad I'll be happy.
As for today's offering, I've got mixed feelings about it. First, 54-Across is a strange, variable phrase. I say the one in the puzzle, but I am well aware that others use an alternative. Both have seemingly valid but unverified etymologies/justifications. I'm having trouble circumlocuting the phrase itself, so I'll curtail any further discussion for now. I'm hoping that you're at least familiar with both so that the theme makes some sense. Second, although it seemed like a neat theme idea upon first conception, the more I look at the finished product the more it looks like product placement. You've got to trust me on this one, though - would a filthy corporate whore give out free puzzles every week, in spite of sizable travel expenses incurred in the name of bettering his craft?
Lastly, if you're in and around the GRA (greater Regina area) this Friday, come check out Ink Road at the Mercury Cafe. We've got a handful of new tunes - some original, some covered - that I think you'll like. Plus, it's an unlikely but lovely venue, with scrumptious burgers and cheap draft beer. Mention you heard about the gig here and the first one's on me.
More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.
Puzzle: Search Party
Download the PDF and PUZ files here, or solve or download the Across Lite puzzle and/or software from the Java app below.