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A reprise and an inspiration

Returning to the subject of my very first blog enty, Kathleen and I went back to the Harvard Exit yesterday, to see the new crossword-puzzler documentary Word Play with our friends Natasha and Norman. It was a fine and beautiful day, if a bit on the warm side, and all was going fine driving there until we hit the police roadblock at 10th Ave. and E. Highland Dr. Apparently, we were wrong: the Raise Your Voice March, part of Pride weekend, was not going to be limited to the southern end of Broadway. It took us a while, but we finally backtracked enough to find a way down to the near vicinity of the theater, only to discover that (duh) it was all parked up solid. It turns out, though, that you can pretty easily find a parking spot on the street that only costs $35, paid to the municipal court system...

Anyway, the Harvard Exit remains a very comfortable place to see a movie, and the cafe across the street, Joe Bar, has changed their ways and now sells both sweet and savory crepes in the evenings. On the negative side, though, Joe Bar no longer appears to offer their "PB & J" crepe (formerly served with a glass of milk), so I never got to try out that delicacy.

The movie centers around Will Shortz, the crossword-puzzle editor at the New York Times, and various contenders in the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It's a fun, quirky look at some really fun, quirky people and their passion for puzzles. The latter third of the movie gives good feel for the action and the ambience at the championships and the twists and turns of final rounds are surprisingly exciting.

Inspired by the movie, I suppose, I didn't skip over the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in the paper this morning. I'd never tried any of the NYT puzzles before, let alone the hardest one of the week, but somehow I couldn't resist attempting it. At first, as I slowly worked my way down the Across clues, looking for any that I could fill in (in pencil, I admit: I'm not totally rash), I began to despair: I could only fill in maybe half a dozen answers, and I wasn't particularly sure of some of those. I got a couple Down answers right off, though, and that opened up the upper-left corner, and that led to the answer to the first of the "theme" clues, and finally I was making real progress. I'm pleased to say I finished the puzzle in pretty good form, with only a few answers that I didn't understand (who knew there was a "Brooklyn-born rapper" named NES?), after about 45 minutes of work. Along the way, there were several wonderful groaners ("German crowd?" was DREI), some very nice bits of misdirection ("Tower, often" was REPO MAN), and of course a fun theme (recontextualized advice from "Dear Old Dad").

Boy, standard crosswords have certainly changed while I've been off focusing on cryptics! I may just have to check out this Sunday puzzle next week, too.


Are you sure the Brooklyn-born rapper isn't NAS?

Oh, dear. Yes, indeed, the correct answer must be NAS, not NES, and the "South American cowboy" crossing it is certainly LLANERO, not LLENERO.

Well, I guess I still need to practice more...

I was most inspired by Wordplay, and wrote a non-evil crossword. Let me know if you ever want to give it a try Pavel

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