Tuesday 9 October 2012

What this is ... or, the number of used car lot gorilla mascots on the sidewalk?

For the answer to clue above, read on.  For now, happy belated Columbus Day, Canadian Thanksgiving, or plain old Monday, depending on your situation.  I spent the long weekend getting fat by driving to Edmonton and Grande Cache and stuffing my face with lasagna, a couple Grandma feasts, and fast food.  No Turkey this year; I approved.

Grande Cache is about 12 hours from Regina.  Luckily, my new shipment of puzzle books arrived last week.  I picked up Bob Klahn's "The Wrath of Klahn," BEQ's diagramless book, and Frank Longo's vowelless book.  I'm especially digging the vowelless; so much so that I made my own over the weekend.  I liked working with the format a lot.  It's kind of like what I wish constructing a themeless were always like: tons of long entries, and the fun stuff can be plunked in with alacrity because there are few if any worries about the shorter crossing fill.  Since you fill in only the consonants and omit the vowels, many of the shorter entries can be expanded into several different words/phrases so you can avoid initialisms, abbreviations, and awkward partials, generally.  No longer are SDS, MSS, and RBS arcane abbrevs.  Now they're I SAID SO, MEIOSIS, and AIRBASE.  What's more, there are fewer possible entries of any given length (since we're working with fewer letters) but more acceptable entries. Also interesting is the difference in lengths between original and devoweled entries, so I tried to play this up a bit in the puzzle.  As an aside (SNSD), here are some stats: in my wordlist, the greatest difference between lengths is 13, for both TDNTMNTHNGFTNTGTTHTSWNG and PRLDTTHFTRNNFFN, and the greatest original/devoweled ratio is exactly 3, for DDDDD, RNDN, BGWG, WKPD, NMTP, and RPRP.  As a hint, the 2 long ones are songs, and DDDDD can be 2 different songs (original entries (highlight the following text to view): IT DONT MEAN A THING IF IT AINT GOT THAT SWING, PRELUDE TO THE AFTERNOON OF A FAUN, I DO I DO I DO I DO I DO/DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO (an ABBA hit and a Rolling Stones hit subtitled "Heartbreaker," respectively), EERIE INDIANA (a TV show), BOOGIE WOOGIE, WOOKIEEPEDIA (a Star Wars wiki), ONOMATOPOEIA, and EUROPA EUROPA (a German film)).

This is all constructing hedonism, really, but the process wasn't entirely as smooth as I just made it out to be.  I may have gotten overzealous with a few of the sections, as a few entries are weak, and one in particular (29-Across) is almost, but not quite, made up.  It seemed legit at first and a quick Googling confirms its existence outside of this grid, but on closer inspection it doesn't really work in any conventional grammatical sense and seems restricted to a fairly specific area of kinesiology.  Sorry about that; I tried to make the surrounding clues as straightforward as possible.

One thing I noticed is that the grids in Longo's book tend to be nearly homogeneous with straightforward-sounding entries that you've heard maybe a handful of times in your life and certainly have never said yourself.  Whether that's by design or a consequence of Longo's terrifyingly open fifty-something-word grids I can't say for sure; it's likely both.  Although they may not be everyday phrases, nearly every entry makes perfectly obvious sense, once you parse the bizarre consonant strings, which is definitely helpful in a wide-open vowelless puzzle.  Whereas guys like BEQ, Peter Gordon, and Matt Jones (all of whom create great themelesses) tend to write puzzles that require you to be alternatingly erudite and hip to crack, I lump Frank Longo in with themeless mavens like Todd McClary, Brad Wilber, Doug Peterson, et al. whose grids are full of crazy entries that are nevertheless very inferrable (with the right clue, of course).  I tend to prefer the latter types of grids; when you can infer an off-the-wall entry you feel a sort of deja-vu-like familiarity with it, which produces a unique feeling of pride in one's perspicacity, IMO.  While it may be fun to uncover from the crossings, a cryptic-looking entry from an unfamiliar avenue of pop culture doesn't quite elicit the same response.

Back to vowellesses.  Although this one is a themeless puzzle, I think the vowelless format offers up unique new theme opportunities.  I haven't done too much brainstorming yet, but right away I liked the idea that one entry can be two or more different phrases.  For instance, the answer to the clue in the post title could be (highlight to show): PST TTL (Post title, or Apesuit total).  That's a tricky one, but what about ["Say something, Ms. Middleton" ... or, "Be very quiet, musicians"?] for:  PPPPPP ("Pipe up, Pippa" or a hypothetical sextuple-piano score marking).  I'll work on developing a themed vowelless for a future post.  Constructors, in the interim feel free to steal and run with the idea.  I'd rather inspire someone else to do the hard work than do it myself, naturally.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.

Oh, if you're new to vowelless puzzles here's the skinny:

  • Enter the answers as you normally would, except only write the consonants.  
  • Use every white square; don't leave blanks for the vowels.
  • To eliminate some ambiguity, no entry, original or vowelless, includes the letter Y.  
  • Watch for common short words with one consonant.  N can be ON, IN, ONE, etc., F can be OF, and T can be OUT, TO, ATE, etc.  It's tricky at first, but it comes easier with some practice.  
  • If you want some hints, the enumerations (number of letters/word in the entry) are provided in PDF format below.  Commas denote spaces between words, while hyphens denote hyphens.  
  • Good luck!

Puzzle: Vowelless #1
Rating: XW-18A
Difficulty: Mostly gimme clues, but some tough entries and it's a vowelless, so pretty difficult
Hint sheet (enumerations)
Full answers


e.a. said...

DNF for me. brilliant construction.

Bananarchy said...

Shit, if you didn't finish then it's definitely too difficult.

jf said...

I finished, and it was much fun, not too tricky. Great clues/entries. Only answer I wasn't able to parse was 3D, but got the crossings. One change I'd make would be to the clue for 54D - it should be Rotational Force, not Rotational Energy.


PS: f rk grd ss hs ntls, w cn't tll wh h s!

Bananarchy said...

Thnks jf! Glad you dug it. I suspect you may be correct regarding 54D, although I was hesitant to call it a force itself, since it's defined as the cross product of Force and displacement vectors. That said, looking at it now "energy" is certainly not correct. Oh well, "rotational" is the operative word, so hopefully it won't mess solvers up too much.

PS: gd pnt!

Howard B said...

Wow. Vowellesseseses are fun for sure. Much respect to some of the fill in here, definitely gives room for creativity to flourish.

Got ripped up by the extra-tricky clues for several answers near the bottom. For this puzzle type, I think that an extra-misdirective clue + long answer = beatdown (or BTDWN if you prefer). Couldn't solve 46A, 33D, 29D, 36D with the given clues, although they're gettable answers on paper. (Also never heard of 3D).
Looking at the answers, I just conceded defeat on those, knowing I could not proceed any further with my brain cells :).

Great clue for 35A, although also difficult for this puzzle.

Looking forward to another of this type. Longo's book is a masterpiece, by the way.

Neville said...

This was hard as heck for me. Admittedly, I only solve a vwllss crsswrd once in a blue moon. Had a few things straight away, but then I had to really spend some time romancing it. In the end it was definitely worth it. More, please!

Despite it being a neat idea, I don't know that I'll be stealing the themed vowelless idea, though. :) I think I'd have a hard enough time writing a plain vowelless!

Bananarchy said...

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Especially nice to get a sense of how difficult people found it (in this case, very. Even Dan Feyer called it "hard but solvable"). Might run another vwllss in a few weeks; I'll try to make it a bit less fearsome.