Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2009 Griddie Awards

Griddie Award Statuette
Welcome to the 2009 Griddies, named after my late great uncle Griddie, who bore a passing resemblance to the Crossword Man mascot. Winners will receive a bitmap representation of the little guy on receipt of a stamped addressed email.

I've been collecting Crucimetrics for the New York Times crosswords for just over a year now, and it seemed time to run the results and find out just what the extremes were in gridding for 2009. I've picked out three metrics to assess grids on:
  1. the longest average answer length: this usually corresponds to the puzzle(s) with the fewest answers, which is the case this year - this award is nicknamed the Longo Award after Frank Longo, the all-time leader in this category
  2. the highest Scrabble point average - this award is nicknamed the XYZPDQ Award (from the mnemonic for "eXamine Your Zipper Pretty Damn Quick") - illustrative of the sort of answer you get in grids winning this award
  3. the lowest number of blocks (black squares) - I've nicknamed this one the Persil Award, after the British laundry detergent brand which has the slogan "whiter than white"
Before proceeding to the results, I should qualify them by saying that I only looked at grids in the New York Times last year and then only at 15x15 grids; also, these awards are really just for themeless puzzles, as extremes in grid construction are impossible if you have additional constraints like the need to incorporate specific answers.

Finally, regular readers will know that I don't think grids that push the limits necessarily make for the most entertaining crosswords for the solver: tough constraints on the fill can result in duller or more hackneyed vocabulary for the clue answers. It's clear when I look back on my reports for the winning grids that I wasn't always aware that the crosswords overall were anything special.

Despite these reservations, I'd like to acknowledge the skill involved in creating exceptional grids such as those shown below. I know from personal experience just how much time and effort can be involved in stretching the art of crossword construction to the limit. It will be interesting to see the comments on this feature: if readers come up with good suggestions, I'll do my best to incorporate them in next year's awards.

The Longo Award for the Longest Average Answer Length

... goes to ... Joe Krozel for the July 18, 2009 crossword AND Robert H. Wolfe for the October 31, 2009 crossword. Both have 58 answers and an average answer length of 6.55. Their grid patterns are also remarkably similar. If I had to choose, I'd say that the Joe Krozel grid has the edge for the slightly higher Scrabble count.

Joe Krozel
Compilers
Joe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 35 (15.6%) black squares
Answers
58 (average length 6.55)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
271 (average 1.43)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ


Robert H. Wolfe
Compilers
Robert H. Wolfe / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 35 (15.6%) black squares
Answers
58 (average length 6.55)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
248 (average 1.31)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

The XYZPDQ Award for the Highest Scrabble Point Average

... goes to ... Matt Ginsberg for the May 30, 2009 crossword. With an average 2.36 Scrabble points per letter, this grid wins the category by a country mile (the nearest contender had an average of exactly 2). No hard grapes that I got three answers wrong in this puzzle!

Matt Ginsberg
Compilers
Matt Ginsberg / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 35 (15.6%) black squares
Answers
72 (average length 5.28)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
448 (average 2.36)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

The Persil Award for the Lowest Number of Blocks

... goes to ... Joe Krozel for both the September 4, 2009 crossword AND the March 28, 2009 crossword. Both have just 19 blocks (black squares) and I think the September 4 (topmost) grid is just the winner on the basis of Scrabble count.

Joe Krozel
Compilers
Joe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 19 (8.4%) black squares
Answers
64 (average length 6.44)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
281 (average 1.36)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ


Joe Krozel
Compilers
Joe Krozel / Will Shortz
Grid
15x15 with 19 (8.4%) black squares
Answers
64 (average length 6.44)
Theme squares
0 (0.0%)
Scrabble points
265 (average 1.29)
Letters used
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great idea, X-man!