Sunday, October 4, 2009

NPR Puzzle 10/04/09 -- Putting the Carp Into Carpe Diem

CCCCCCC the day! (Sorry, I couldn't resist...)

Here's the puzzle Will left us this week:
The challenge is to find a chain of "C" words to connect "carbon" to "circuit." Will's chain has seven words between "carbon" and "circuit." The answer doesn't have to match Will's, but each word has to start with "C," and each has to combine with the words before and after to make a compound word or familiar two-word phrase.
(If you didn't hear the on-air puzzle, read the explanation below to see how his word chains work in this instance.)

Now, I will tell you right away that this one left Ross and me at odds, and we're counting on all of you to weigh in with your opinions. The puzzle is easy enough to solve, electronically or using a dictionary: Start with CARBON, look that up in a dictionary and see what compound and two-word phrases you can make with another C-word. Pick the most likely of that list of C-words and lather, rinse, repeat until you get to a word that links with CIRCUIT. Easy-peasy.

But, which do you actually want -- a chain of C-words that's as long as possible, or a chain that's as short as possible? Which is better, in the context of an NPR puzzle? I think it should be as long as possible, because we know the two words can be linked, but the question is how long a legitimate chain can you make. Ross thinks these puzzles (word chains) should be as short as possible. What do you think? Are you scoring for elegance or degree of difficulty? Leave a comment and let us know.

Time for a photograph of Mimi, our dog. She shows up from time to time in Ross's posts about the NYT crossword, most recently as an exemplar of a "cocked ear."

She's a shelter dog, so of course we don't know what breed she is. We think she's a mix of Rhodesian Ridgeback and American Staffordshire Terrier (the taller of the two AKC breeds lumped together as "pit bulls"). We're tempted to send in her DNA for analysis, but I know someone who did that with her dog and discovered that Payton (the dog) wasn't any of the breeds they thought! So I think we'll just continue to tell people Mimi is a Rhodie and let someone else pay the $100 to prove us wrong.

We're off this week for an elaborate playdate for Mimi -- we're driving to Florida to visit friends who have a 9-year-old Golden Retriever, Miz Cedar. I gather Miz Cedar used to be a terror, but is now a nice mellow dog. Most likely outcome is that the dogs won't play with each other, but rather go to each other's owners for love & affection. Mimi's a complete love-slut: she goes crazy when she meets anyone for the first time, just in case they'll pet her!

For this week's value-added puzzle, I'm going to try the word chain puzzles with letters other than C. This was how Will explained the on-air puzzle:
Each clue consists of two words starting with the letter "C." The answer is a third word starting with "C" that can follow the first word and precede the second one to complete a compound word or familiar two-word phrase. For example, if the clue is "comedy" and "car," the answer would be "club" as in "comedy club" and "Club Car."
I'll list two words; your challenge is to provide the middle word that starts with the same letter and joins with both in the approved word chain methodology.

ARMY & ACID

BELL & BAND

DRIP & DOCK

FROZEN & FIGHT

GREATER & GRIEF

HELPING & HELD

LEADING & LESS

MAD & MADE

NATURAL & NINE

POLITICAL & PIECE

RAT & RIOT

SAFE & SYMBOL

TONGUE & TACK

UNDER & UP

WHITE & WATCH

16 comments:

Dan said...

How many different words did you find that proceed CARBON or precede CIRCUIT?

Dan said...

I finally got it... or at least something that works perfectly. I look forward to how y'all pieced it out, and who gets selected & why.

Roxie said...

Since I actually had to work today - I only got around to working on the puzzle just now. And thus the argument ensued. The cantankerous question: Are proper nouns allowed? How about British expressions?

In any event, my answer has a chain of 7 words between carbon & circuit, just like Shortz'. :-)

Dan said...

Mine's better, but for a gerund.

Magdalen said...

I think Ross got it down to five phrases (where "CARBON W" is one phrase, "W X" is a phrase, etc., up to "Z CIRCUIT" for the fifth and final phrase), whereas the longest I could get it was 12 phrases. The cleanest iteration I've got is 7 or 8 phrases, just as Will intended.

So -- is shorter better? Is longer better? Or is cleanest better?

And what IS a "cow college"?

Roxie said...

If I am not mistaken you have two gerunds in your answer... In any event (imagine an overemphasized voice for that), Ben Bass agrees with me, for he came up with the same answer as I - however random that may be. And if the big WS has my answer, I will be waiting with a camera for the expression on your face dear Dan :-b

Roxie said...

Magdalen: We had to look up 'cow college' as well :-) As far as length is concerned, Dan and I simply went with Will Shortz' parameters of 9 words in total (first being Carbon, last being Circuit). So, within those parameters we tried for the most elegant solution - nothing too esoteric. However Dan and I have been disagreeing over the elegance of our respective solutions. We also attempted something humorous, though without success.

Roxie said...

Magdalen: Merriam Webster informed us that a cow college is a) a school specializing in agriculture (d'oh), or b) an unsophisticated provincial college. It however seems to be a slightly dated term (although I am not to speak, living in NYC we don't see many cows, or colleges that fraternize with cows).

Magdalen said...

Roxie -- Ross has promised a photo of a cow on the blog soon, just for you guys. And you're welcome to come visit Casa Crucigramistas any time you like; we're in a very rural part of Pennsylvania so there are lots of cows!

Roxie said...

Magdalen: Thank you! Though we don't have many cows in Southern NY - I did grow up in the Austrian Alps :-) Matter of fact, Dan and I had two cows named after us, because they were born twins on the day of our wedding. Bovine Dan unfortunately has gone the way of steak by now. I can dig up a picture of the two calves, if you'd like.

Magdalen said...

Now that's an honor! (I was about to pay Non-bovine Dan a compliment based on Bovine Dan tasting good, but then I realize in what poor taste the joke would be. Never mind.) (Wait -- I've got it. Bovine Dan was, of course, very good looking! As, I'm sure, was Bovine Roxie!)

We're in an area of Pennsylvania known as the Endless Mountains, but anyone growing up in the Austrian Alps would laugh at what are called "mountains" here. "Endless Rolling Hills" doesn't have the same ring, though.

Magdalen said...

Alas, Ross has proven me wrong; his word chain has six phrases total. I thought he'd gotten it down to five, but clearly I was wrong.

Details on Thursday!

Dan said...

So, wait, have you guys solved or not solved the puzzle? I thought the requirement was 9 words in total, including Carbon & Circuit... I have numerous chains that were 10 or 11 long, and several that were 8 long. But the 9 was the hardest part.

Dan said...

I am confused, and I agree with your debate. The question is not clearly defined. Longer? Shorter? I could have done it with 1 word in between.

Dan said...

I disagree with "Center/re Court," although, we all disgreed with Storm-Tempest. Here is what I worked on for 6 hours:
CARBON
COPY
CAT
CALLING
CARD
CARRYING
CASE
CLOSED
CIRCUIT
...and if you wanted to go shorter:
CARBON-CHAIN-CYCLE

Dan said...

oops... CARBON-CHAIN-CIRCUIT