Friday - - Mind Games -

Let’s re­turn briefly to the first line of last week’s Vo­cab, which stated that a cru­civer­bal­ist (a crossword en­thu­si­ast) plays alone. That’s true for the most part, but since 1977 The New York Times has held an an­nual Crossword Puz­zle Tour­na­ment – ini­tially in Stam­ford, Con­necti­cut and more re­cently in Brook­lyn, New York.

So, how does that work? Of course, it re­mains an in­di­vid­ual af­fair with contestants sit­ting down to solve puz­zle af­ter puz­zle that in­crease in lev­els of com­plex­ity, elim­i­nat­ing all but the hardi­est con­tender to­wards the end. For a spec­tac­u­lar end, the fi­nal­ists solve the last puz­zle on a gi­gan­tic board in view of an en­thralled au­di­ence (they wear noise-can­celling head­phones to keep out dis­trac­tions and prompts).

The New York Times puzzles edi­tor Will Shortz grades the puzzles from easy to su­per-hard through the week; Mon­days’ are the eas­i­est, Thurs­days’ usu­ally fea­ture some­thing gim­micky, Satur­days’ are tor­tur­ous, and Sun­days’ of­fer a larger grid. Since Shortz uses faith­ful ‘con­struc­tors’, regular solvers are con­di­tioned to try to crack the puzzles.

An ex­am­ple? One Thurs­day I solved sev­eral clues to ob­tain the an­swers GENEVA, CREVASSE, EL­E­VA­TOR, and EVA­SIVE. Yet, to fill them in, I was two squares short each time (I had to fit GENEVA into four squares or look for an­other an­swer). A look at the key clue flashed the ‘aha!’ bulb: “Stage name of Amer­i­can pop singer who sang the orig­i­nal Loco-Mo­tion that forms the theme of to­day’s puz­zle.” That would be Lit­tle Eva, and that clinched it – each themed an­swer was a re­bus! You had to squeeze in the let­ter se­quence ‘EVA’ into a sin­gle square, which meant hav­ing to write it in re­ally small let­ters, so, lit­tle Eva – voilà! And this let­ter trio ap­peared at in­ter­sec­tions to serve an Across and a Down word, un­der­scor­ing the con­struc­tor’s ge­nius.

Sim­i­larly, an­other re­bus-based puz­zle re­quired the solver to en­ter AU into a sin­gle square (for an­swers such as LAUN­DRY or DI­NOSAUR). The key clue read: “1972 Neil Young song that forms the theme of to­day’s puz­zle.” The song was Heart of Gold, and the penny dropped – if a word con­tained ‘AU’, it had a heart of gold, be­cause Au is the chem­i­cal sym­bol for gold. But that wasn’t all – once filled in, all the blocks con­tain­ing ‘AU’ formed a heart shape on the grid!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.