Thursday, March 31, 2011

NPR Puzzle 3/27/11 Tarnation - the Answer is Tarantino!

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take the word "calm" and flip the letters A and L to get "clam." Take the last name of a film director known for using profanity, and flip two pairs of letters in place to get a word used as a substitute for profanity. Who's the director, and what's the word?
Okay, this was absurdly easy, or else our brains just work in an odd way so that this was immediately obvious.  The answers are TARANTINO and TARNATION.

I did promise you the video of Francis Heaney, the originator of this puzzle, tap dancing with Lorinne Lampert.  Take it away, Lorinne!



Now for the photos:




As I have before, I used Wikipedia for the details of Quentin Tarantino's life.  His childhood was spent in Toluca Lake, California, and above we have a cat from Toluca Lake.



He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, above.




The photo above is of Redondo Beach, California, which is what I got when I asked Flickr for photos of Torrence, California.  Hey, it works for me.




I then asked Flickr for pictures of Harbor City, California, and as you might imagine, I got pictures of a harbor for another City, in this case Crescent City.  But you guys are all word puzzle freaks; I'm sure you got the right idea.




Tarantino famously worked in a video store in Manhattan Beach -- and this actually is a picture of Manhattan Beach!



Tarantino hosts an annual film festival in Austin, Texas, which is wet in this photo.


Time for ...

P I C K   A   R A N G E

Fewer than 50       
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500

500 - 550
550 - 600
600 - 650
650 - 700
700 - 750
750 - 800
800 - 850
850 - 900
900 - 950
950 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,050 -- Grace   
1,050 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,150 -- Mendo Jim
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250
1,250 - 1,300 -- Ross
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450
1,450 - 1,500 -- Dave

1,500 - 1,550 -- Magdalen
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650 -- Phil
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950
1,950 - 2,000
2,000 - 2,050 -- David
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150 -- Kaleena
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule: 

In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")

Sunday, March 27, 2011

NPR Puzzle 3/27/11 - The Weapon of the Witless

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take the word "calm" and flip the letters A and L to get "clam." Take the last name of a film director known for using profanity, and flip two pairs of letters in place to get a word used as a substitute for profanity. Who's the director, and what's the word?
Okay, how cool is this?  I said the name of the director out loud and Ross said the word out loud without either of us really thinking about the letter swaps.

Also cool is that this puzzle is from Francis Heaney.  I wanted to post the YouTube video of him tap dancing with Lorinne Lampert at the ACPT talent show.  But I couldn't find it in time.  Here, instead, is his version of the Japanese animals video:



It's okay, the puzzle is better.  So's his dancing.  I'll post the tap dancing video on Thursday. 

If you know the answer to the puzzle, send it in to NPR here.

Hmm.  Photos.   I'll be honest -- and boy, I hope this isn't a hint -- I don't think I can do photos of the word.  But the director -- yeah, I can do photos that have some connection to the director.  And here they are -- deliberately vague & unhelpful as always.








Time for ...
P I C K   A   R A N G E

This is where we ask you how many entries you think NPR will get for the challenge above.  If you want to win, leave a comment with your guess for the range of entries NPR will receive.  First come first served, so read existing comments before you guess.  Ross and I guess last, just before we publish the Thursday post.  After the Thursday post is up, the entries are closed.  The winner gets a puzzle book of our unspecified choosing.

We have a winner!!  With just over 1,000 entries (thanks, Nameless NPR Intern, for giving us that number in the preferred format!), Phil is our winner.  And I don't think he's won before, so what I need, Phil, is for you to send us your full name and address to Magdalen (at) Crosswordman.com.  Your prize will go out in the mail to you right after that.

For the rest of you, keep working hard to deduce the correct number each week.  Here are the ranges:

Fewer than 50       
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500

500 - 550
550 - 600
600 - 650
650 - 700
700 - 750
750 - 800
800 - 850
850 - 900
900 - 950
950 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,050         
1,050 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,150
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250
1,250 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450
1,450 - 1,500

1,500 - 1,550
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950
1,950 - 2,000
2,000 - 2,050
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule: 
In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NPR Puzzle 3/20/11 -- A Puzzle with a Half-Life

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take the phrase "consumer protection laws," and rearrange the letters to name a person in broadcasting and an issue of public debate. Hints: The name of the person in broadcasting has five letters in the first name and five letters in the last name. For the issue of public debate, it's a familiar two-word phrase with seven letters in the first word and five letters in the second. What name and phrase are these?
Sometimes I think it would be fun to solve these sorts of puzzles the CORRECT (non cheating) way.  One day, I'll try it again.  But this would not have been the weekend to try it, what with the ACPT and all.

Anyway, the answers were SCOTT SIMON (Liane Hansen's Saturday counterpart and a serious cutie-pie) and NUCLEAR POWER.





Here are the photos I used:

For Scott Simon, I used his Wiki page for inspiration. According to that, he was born in Chicago, Illinois:


He and his wife Caroline got married in Ridgefield, Connecticut at the home of designer Alexander Julian.  I couldn't find a picture of Mr. Julian's home, so here's Ridgefield:


Simon wrote a novel, Pretty Birds, based on interviews he conducted with two young women snipers in Sarajevo.  Couldn't find a photo on Flickr of a sniper, but here's Sarajevo:


Now, for nuclear power, I selected three locations that have nuclear power plants.  First up, Crystal River, Florida:


Hanford, Washington:


Plymouth, Massachusetts:


Understand, I'm not against nuclear power -- I'm against underfunding nuclear power, and in particular
the safety measures of nuclear power plants.  But that's a debate for another sort of blog altogether.

Time for ...
P I C K   A   R A N G E

Fewer than 50       
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500

500 - 550
550 - 600 -- Ross
600 - 650
650 - 700
700 - 750
750 - 800
800 - 850
850 - 900
900 - 950
950 - 1,000 -- Mendo Jim
1,000 - 1,050 -- Phil       
1,050 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,150 -- David
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250
1,250 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450
1,450 - 1,500 -- Magdalen

1,500 - 1,550 -- Dave
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650 -- Grace
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950
1,950 - 2,000 -- Marie
2,000 - 2,050
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule: 
In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ACPT 2011 - Crossword Man Speaks!

Ross Beresford
The 2011 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was a radically different experience for me: I found myself on the podium for the first time!

I got The Call (actually an email) in early February: would I like to talk about The Differences Between UK and US Cryptics, to introduce the "U.S. vs. U.K. Crossword Showdown"?

This really threw me for a loop: while I am uniquely positioned to speak on the subj, I tend to get bad stage fright if my audience numbers more than one. The Friday night audience at the ACPT is in the hundreds. But could I turn down a request from The Dr. Will Shortz? No way!

Thankfully Magdalen managed to talk me down off the ledge after a couple of days and I set about researching my talk, negotiating with Will (my rabbiting on for more than 10 minutes being his persistent worry), and creating a small example puzzle. More significantly, I got in a lot of practice with Magdalen - huge props to her for supporting me through all this.



What all this meant was I made little effort to hone my solving technique for tournament itself. I'd bought the 2006 thru 2008 tournament puzzle sets (via the Play by Mail offer) after last year's tournament, but not done a single one. Under the circs, I was surprised to go up in the rankings as much as I did. One technique I did consciously adopt this year was to read and circle keywords in the crossword title and subtitle - I think that was useful for several puzzles this year (certainly my failure to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the titles cost me time in previous ACPTs).

Anyway, I was very glad my speech was on Friday night: once that was over, I could relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend, which started with the ...

US vs UK Crossword Showdown

I hadn't been sent copies of the competition puzzles, so I solved the British cryptic crossword by Don Manley and the American cryptic crossword by Rich Silvestri as a regular competitor. Since I'm now a naturalized US citizen, I chose to bat for the USA side (not that it made much difference).

Guys and Dolls
I was making pretty good progress with the UK crossword until I got stumped by {What sounds like appearance for dolls? No!} at 6-Across. With just _U_S from crossings, I stared at that last clue for maybe three minutes at the end before I realized the answer was guys. Despite that, I managed to finish in the top ten, winning a book prize - probably my first and last prize for speed solving. And I just edged out the mighty Dan Feyer. The US crossword was a steadier solve, but my relative inexperience with the American style meant I was outside of the top ten for that puzzle.

The British puzzle wasn't as parochial as I was expecting, and I get the impression Don Manley was steered towards a more transatlantic approach and didn't overdo the cultural references. That was probably in the interests of the majority of the solvers present - the Americans in the audience were there to be entertained, not flummoxed.

Still, a Brit (Mark Goodliffe, Times Crossword tetrachamp and co-founder of the Magpie crossword magazine) won the overall contest, as I anticipated. I was gobsmacked, though, to see an American so close behind: I'd watched Jeffrey Harris win Lollapuzzoola 3 last summer, but I'd no idea he is also an ace solver of cryptics - most impressive.

Puzzle 1 - Kelly Clark (15 minutes, 78 words)
Score: 780 (78 correct answers) + 200 (8 mins in hand) + 150 (correct) = 1130

I got along very well with the warm-up puzzle this year, finding no particular trouble spots, and was confident of a correct grid. Here's where I could have shaved off a minute or two with better technique: if I'd been solving it on computer as a New York Times crossword, I might have earned a 10 minute bonus ... as it was, my hand went up with just eight minutes left on the clock.

Puzzle 2 - Pete Muller (25 minutes, 89 words)
Score: 890 (89 correct answers) + 0 (0 mins in hand) + 150 (correct) = 1040

baseball scoreboard
With the second puzzle, I started to run into the troublesome crossings and doubts over accuracy that I expect from competition puzzles. The first problem was the crossing of 28-Across and 3-Down: Mila Kunis rang only vague bells and La Lollo meant nothing to me; this was clearly a case where prolonged thought would be wasted, so I just went with my first instinct and dodged a bullet.

The other trouble spot was at 83-Across, where I just couldn't figure out what the abbreviation Epis. stood for. I was very confident of the long downs crossing it and fairly confident of RHE at 77-Down having watched enough live baseball games now to realize it stands for runs, hits and errors. I actually had the correct grid with about two minutes left on the clock, but ran the clock down in the hope of finally spotting the error that wasn't there. After the puzzle was done, I heard from other solvers that 83-Across referred to the Episcopalian religious affiliation of the US presidents in the clue.

Puzzle 3 - Merl Reagle (30 minutes, 114 words)
Score: 1140 (114 correct answers) + 200 (8 mins in hand) + 150 (correct) = 1490

Brach's
There were similar problems in the Merl Reagle puzzle. The first stumbling block affected a thematic answer, and I'd have benefited from being clear on which answers were the theme puns. I'd already solved 57-Across and realized that was thematic (tho only 8 letters); but when I got to 54-Across, it took me a while to notice it must also be so ... the question mark being another helpful pointer I overlooked. Not having come across the defunct EBS (56-Down) before, I tentatively tried mein hart before considering the clue more carefully and switching to the correct mein hare.

2-Down caused me further worry, as Brach's was new to me. Here I just had to trust that all the crossings were solid after double- and triple-checking them. All these uncertainties cost me time, so I was a little surprised to see 8 minutes still left on the clock when I'd completed the grid to the best of my abilities.

Puzzle 4 - Bonnie L. Gentry/Vic Fleming (20 minutes, 76 words)
Score: 760 (76 correct answers) + 300 (12 mins in hand) + 150 (correct) = 1210

This felt like a repeat of puzzle 1 ... very much another warm-up puzzle. I twigged to the theme early and found knowledge of it very helpful as I went along. I had no doubts about the grid as I put my hand up with 12 minutes to spare.

Puzzle 5 - Mike Shenk (30 minutes, 92 words)
Score: 810 (81 correct answers) = 810

In the last year, I've focused a lot on difficult US puzzles. Not just those in the New York Times on Friday and Saturday, but also anything published by Brendan Emmett Quigley and Fireball Crosswords; I've also worked through a heap of hard puzzle collections in book form (such as those featured in the blog sidebar).

So would this be the year when I finally complete puzzle 5 correctly (and so have a good chance of making the Solving Perfection list)? Well I came maddeningly close. As I approached that final unfilled section at the middle right, the puzzle felt like a Friday New York Times crossword which I'd just spent 25 minutes wading through: on a good day, the last answers will fall into place in a swift minute's work; on a bad day, I'll stare at the clues till my forehead bleeds.

TGIF
This was very much a bad day puzzle, as I discovered when Brendan Emmett Quigley walked me through the unsolved clues after time was up. I hadn't considered 31-Down might be an abbreviation, so it was going to be tough to arrive at TGIF. I've definitely come across Danny Aiello before, but not enough to recall his unlikely surname without at least half the letters. It didn't help that the problem area was awash with other proper names.

I also hadn't thought carefully enough about 59-Down, which started out as biocide. When that looked impossible, I somehow opted for exocide (unfortunately not a word) rather than the more plausibly formed ecocide ... these Alexes and Alecs are the bane of my life! I'm not sure I'd have fixed that error even if I had finished the rest of the grid in the time.

But, my performance relative to others in my class turned out to be rather good, and the points earned for a puzzle I didn't even finish boosted me considerably in the standings.

Puzzle 6 - Maura Jacobson (30 minutes, 126 words)
Score: 1260 (126 correct answers) + 425 (17 mins in hand) + 150 (correct) = 1835

I got on very well with Maura Jacobson's puzzles in the two previous ACPTs I attended and this one was also a breeze for me. It felt great to finish a 19x19 in under half the time allotted and have no doubts over accuracy.

Puzzle 7 - Ashish Vengsarkar/Narayan Venkatasubramanyan (45 minutes, 140 words)
Score: 1400 (140 correct answers) + 500 (20 mins in hand) + 150 (correct) = 2050

I'm used to the 21x21 being stuffed with Merl Reagle's puns, so I wasn't quite sure how the final puzzle would pan out with different constructors. It turned out that the theme was right up my alley, although I had doubts over non-thematic aspects in several spots.

BWI
At the top left, I was glad to have heard of Ben Zimmer, since I couldn't immediately work out what BWI should expand to as the airport serving D.C. In the absence of the crossing, I'd have gambled on GWI for George Washington International. Only when I'd had my reviving cuppa after finishing did I consider that the B must stand for Baltimore.

I know that the crossing of 35-Across and 31-Down caught out a lot of solvers, but here's an example of where the blog really helped me: I'd written about Esalen on January 19, 2010 and sal soda on October 31, 2010. Having only seen them once before, I wasn't 100% confident I'd remembered them right, but knew enough to go with my gut feeling on the doubtful crossing.

The final trouble spot was the crossing of 115-Across and 103-Down. This was a case of playing alphabetical roulette and opting for much the most likely choice of R giving Ari and Loral.

Summing It All Up

My scores add to 9565 which puts me in 164th place (up from 309th last year). I'm very pleased about that, because I expected to be in the 200s. I was lucky to have dodged several bullets when making the informed guesses described above.

I wonder, though, if I can maintain the upward momentum, now that I've stopped doing daily crossword commentaries. Although I continue to solve lots of puzzles I tend to be very lazy about answers I don't already know, unless forced to check them and read about their associations.

notebook
My first rather old-school idea was that I should keep a notebook of all the new stuff I learn from crosswords, but I'm wondering now if that couldn't be maintained online. Perhaps a weekly blog post of all the new factoids I learn from each puzzle?

I'll continue to do the Cheat Sheets, as I find those are fun to research and can be done in quiet times in my schedule. I'm currently working on "Crucial Counties" having got up to Michigan in the list of states in alphabetical order. That one's a lot of work - most of them take maybe an hour to write.

The 2011 tournament was particularly interesting because of the British presence, and I know the folks who came over from the UK were awed by the experience. As I continue to be ... nothing comes close to rivaling the ACPT for scale, efficiency and fun. I'm particularly indebted to Will for the opportunity to speak (a valuable learning experience for me) and to the technical team behind the website - the ability to see scans of your grids is a totally awesome feature (without which writing this post would be much harder).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

NPR Puzzle 3/20/11 - Will Shortz Exacts His Revenge...

...which would be called what?  Shortz-sheeting?  Okay more on that later, but first,

Here's this week's puzzle:
Take the phrase "consumer protection laws," and rearrange the letters to name a person in broadcasting and an issue of public debate. Hints: The name of the person in broadcasting has five letters in the first name and five letters in the last name. For the issue of public debate, it's a familiar two-word phrase with seven letters in the first word and five letters in the second. What name and phrase are these?
Yes, we cheated to solve it, and yes, it is cheating, and no, we don't enter the actual contest to get on air.

But you should enter your answer in the actual contest -- and to do that, send your answer here to NPR.

Now, I mention the cheating issue because we have a few new readers, at least judging by the comments and entries in our Pick-a-Range contest (see below), and I just want things to be clear.  Also, Will Shortz (if I drop his name any harder, I'll bruise my foot) was pointing out to us that he works hard to come up with puzzles that can't be solved using computer programs like Ross's TEA.  So I told him that in the two years or so that we've been blogging about the NPR puzzle, no one has purchased Ross's software direct from this blog.  So much for flogging the product.

But we do use the software to solve the NPR puzzle, and honestly, I don't even feel guilty.  I'll explain.  Ross's software does many nifty things, including finding all the words you can make out of a longer string of letters.  He recently (oh, a year or so ago) added all the entries in Wikipedia to a dictionary -- which gives you a lot of stuff, but also people like our newscaster in this week's puzzle.  So with some relatively simple clickety-clacks, I can say I know what the answer is.  That's a good thing, because I need to know the answer to find some pretty pictures for our photo section.  Among other things.

If we submitted the answer to NPR (see above), I'd feel maybe a little unsporting.  But we don't.  (We can live without the lapel pin.  Sorry, Will, but we can.)

Oh, right -- Shortz-sheeting.  Okay, so we're here at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn, which is Will's pride and joy, particularly as he started it himself before he became the puzzle editor of the New York Times.  In previous years, he's graciously greeted us in the lobby and acknowledged this blog.  So, sure, I tease him regarding the NPR puzzle, mostly because he is THE Will Shortz.  He can hardly care that someone in deeply rural Pennsylvania is less than reverential.

Bad move on my part.

I don't compete in the actual crossword puzzle tournament, but I did hang out with Ross and Henry at Saturday night's frivolities, which involved a quiz/word game competition based on The Amazing Race (courtesy of the puzzle guys on the A Way With Words radio show).  Ross and I had participated in last year's competition, and ended up in the finals -- on stage -- as the result of a fortuitous link-up with David Plotkin, a phenomenal young puzzler (currently 11th in the rankings after six of the seven puzzles in this year's competition).  This year, we had Henry in our team, plus a lovely woman named Kathy, who's been competing in the ACPT for five years.

Geography isn't a strong suit for any of us -- although I did okay with the herbs & spices sub-puzzle.  But the rest of the puzzles were amalgams of wordplay and geography.  One was a cryptic puzzle playing off the prevalence of STAN as the ending to countries' names and Stan Newman as a puzzle constructor.

Cryptic crosswords are Henry's and Ross's metier.  So who wanders up, pulls up a chair and sits to watch us but WILL SHORTZ.  Personally, I don't think Kathy noticed or cared, and Henry and Ross just plowed on, but I freaked out.  Of course I want Will to know who I am, but not to see how clueless I can be under pressure with the puzzle editor of the New York Times watching.  Could he really be punishing me for my irreverence?  Hmm.  (Maybe I should make him write a romance novel while I watch...)

Okay, that would be over the top.  (Sorry, Will.)

In other news, Ross did a nice job with his speech on Friday night on the difference between British and American cryptic puzzles.  He really was terrified of this gig five weeks ago, and by the time he got up to talk -- well, okay, so he's not a natural performer, but he was really cute and funny.  (I'm biased, but I still think I'm right.)

Photo time.  Here are some carefully disguised places associated with the two answers to this week's puzzle:  the topic and the newscaster.  The first three photos are associated with the newscaster, the final three photos have a connection to the topic of debate.







Time for ...
P I C K   A   R A N G E

This is where we ask you how many entries you think NPR will get for the challenge above.  If you want to win, leave a comment with your guess for the range of entries NPR will receive.  First come first served, so read existing comments before you guess.  Ross and I guess last, just before we publish the Thursday post.  After the Thursday post is up, the entries are closed.  The winner gets a puzzle book of our unspecified choosing.

We are in a hotel room at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott.  We're not exactly stupid people (well, Ross's stunt this morning requiring Engineering to be called would suggest otherwise, but other than that) but we couldn't get the radio to work.  If I can get live streaming of the radio broadcast from the central time zone, I'll amend this post with the all-important information about whether anyone won.  Otherwise, it will have to wait for when NPR uploads the broadcast.  If you're reading this without that announcement, come back later on today (Sunday).

Edited to add (at 6:15 p.m.) that there were just over 2,200 entries last week -- and no one was up that high.  Also, let's all rag on Ross, who mysteriously was convinced there would be fewer than one-third that many entries.

Also, thanks to Will Shortz for mentioning Mark Goodliffe and Peter Biddlecombe who, with Simon Anthony, came over from Old Blighty to compete in the ACPT.  It was a delight to meet them (we had dinner with Mark and Simon on Friday and hosted everyone to a party on Saturday).  For me, personally, it was particularly nice to meet Peter's wife, Jacquie, who stayed through our party last night even though it was her birthday!!  (And it was one of those ends-in-a-zero birthdays, too.) 

But next week we'll be back home, where our IQ is at least average, so play Pick a Range this week.  It can't get more discombobulated than it has been today.  Here are the ranges:

Fewer than 50       
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500

500 - 550
550 - 600
600 - 650
650 - 700
700 - 750
750 - 800
800 - 850
850 - 900
900 - 950
950 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,050         
1,050 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,150
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250
1,250 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450
1,450 - 1,500

1,500 - 1,550
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950
1,950 - 2,000
2,000 - 2,050
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule: 
In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")

Thursday, March 17, 2011

NPR Puzzle 3/13/11 - Midge: PA's Former First Lady, not the State Insect

Here's this week's puzzle:
Think of a five-letter girl's name that ends in a "J" sound. Change that to a CH sound to get a five-letter boy's name. What names are these?
The intended answers are MIDGE and MITCH.

There was some concern that "Midge" is not a particularly obvious girl's name.  Well, it is if you are a) a resident of Pennsylvania with either some knowledge of politics or federal appellate courts, or b) old enough and girly enough to have had a complete set of Barbies in the 1960s/70s.

Here's my Midge:


Marjorie "Midge" Rendell, current judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and former first lady of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  (Former in that Ed Rendell is no longer the governor, and former in that the Rendells announced in February -- to no one's great surprise -- that they are amicably living apart and it's fine if you want to invite them both to the same social events as that will embarrass neither one of them.)


Here's "midge" the insect (not Pennsylvania's state insect, which is the firefly):

Here's Midge the doll (a friend of Barbie's)











Finally, here's Ross's Midge:



(I set it up to start about 1 minute and 20 seconds into the clip because the beginning is ver-r-ry slow and lugubrious unless you're very young or veddy British.  And if you can't be bothered at all, Midge is the mouse.)

Ross would also like me to mention that the otter in Ring of Bright Water is Mij, pronounced "midge."

(There was another "midge" but if he wants that one included, he can damned well stick it in a comment.)

If you scroll down to Sunday's post, I have provided proper attributions for the animals.  But for quick reference, all the cats are Midges and all the dogs are Mitches.

Time for ...
P I C K   A   R A N G E

Fewer than 50       
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500

500 - 550
550 - 600
600 - 650
650 - 700 -- Ross
700 - 750
750 - 800 -- Tom
800 - 850 -- Phil 
850 - 900 -- Mendo Jim
900 - 950
950 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,050 -- Dave      
1,050 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,150
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250 -- Kaleenam
1,250 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450 -- David
1,450 - 1,500 -- Jimel

1,500 - 1,550 -- Magdalen
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950-- Paul
1,950 - 2,000 -- Marie
2,000 - 2,050 -- Grace
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule: 
In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")

Sunday, March 13, 2011

NPR Puzzle 3/13/11 But I Digraph...

Here's this week's puzzle:
Think of a five-letter girl's name that ends in a "J" sound. Change that to a CH sound to get a five-letter boy's name. What names are these?
Not too hard, or is that a hint?

As always, don't tell us the right answers -- send them here to NPR!

I'll admit -- I always thought that two consonants together was a diphthong, but that's two vowels, as in out and loin.  Two consonants make a digraph.  Learn something new every decade.

Quickie photo session as I'm trying to get on the road this morning.  I'm driving to visit a friend who lives in New Jersey, a relatively long trip but she's a special friend (and she has books in her garage that I might just want to borrow).  The sooner I leave, the sooner I get there, even allowing for New Jersey road traffic conditions.

Photo Time!  A couple weeks ago we had Marcia and Marsha and although it was hard, I did manage to find photos of stuff other than people & pets.  Today -- no time!  So I'm going with pets: the following 6 animals have one or the other of the puzzle names.  Don't worry, I don't think they bite.

Names & other attributions to come on Thursday, along with a special British treat that Ross has instructed me to share!  (And Tobias -- if you can read the name on a tag or collar, please let me know.)

Time for ...
P I C K   A   R A N G E

This is where we ask you how many entries you think NPR will get for the challenge above.  If you want to win, leave a comment with your guess for the range of entries NPR will receive.  First come first served, so read existing comments before you guess.  Ross and I guess last, just before we publish the Thursday post.  After the Thursday post is up, the entries are closed.  The winner gets a puzzle book of our unspecified choosing.

There were "about 800" answers last week.  Which is a completely unsatisfactory form for this particular statistic, Oh Great NPR Intern.  (I suspect it's a new Oh Great NPR Intern, and I'll just have to start the training process all over again.  *sigh*)  So, just to refresh everyone's recollection, we need to know that there were "more than [round number]" or "just under [round number]" and only if there were precisely [round number] of entries should our tie break rule be invoked.

In this case, of course, only Ross had the foresight to pick a number as low as 800.  He doesn't get a prize either (we deprive ourselves so that there might be more prizes for you!) and it's onto this week's puzzle.  Time for one of you guys to win!

Here are the ranges:

Fewer than 50       
50 - 100
100 - 150
150 - 200
200 - 250
250 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 450
450 - 500

500 - 550
550 - 600
600 - 650
650 - 700
700 - 750
750 - 800
800 - 850
850 - 900
900 - 950
950 - 1,000
1,000 - 1,050         
1,050 - 1,100
1,100 - 1,150
1,150 - 1,200
1,200 - 1,250
1,250 - 1,300
1,300 - 1,350
1,350 - 1,400
1,400 - 1,450
1,450 - 1,500

1,500 - 1,550
1,550 - 1,600
1,600 - 1,650
1,650 - 1,700
1,700 - 1,750
1,750 - 1,800
1,800 - 1,850
1,850 - 1,900
1,900 - 1,950
1,950 - 2,000
2,000 - 2,050
2,050 - 2,100
2,100 - 2,150
2,150 - 2,200
2,200 - 2,250
2,250 - 2,300
2,300 - 2,350
2,350 - 2,400
2,400 - 2,450
2,450 - 2,500

2,500 - 2,750
2,750 - 3,000
3,000 - 3,250
3,250 - 3,500
3,500 - 4,000
4,000 - 4,500
4,500 - 5,000

More than 5,000
More than 5,000 and it sets a new record.
Our tie-break rule: 
In the event that a single round number is announced, AND two separate people picked the ranges leading up to and leading up from that round number, the prize will be awarded to whichever entrant had not already won a prize, or in the event that both entrants had won a prize already or neither had, then to the earlier of the two entries on the famous judicial principle of "First Come First Serve," (or in technical legal jargon, "You Snooze, You Lose")