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Puzzle Solution #15: An Auspicious Occasion


MoneyWell, it’s happened again. You have wasted another perfectly good hour week working on a crossword puzzle when you could have made a dent in that backlog of important work you have been putting off since the early years of this century. Alternatively, you could have spent the hour week listening to old episodes of Car Talk.

If for some reason you have not encountered this puzzle, steer your browser in the direction of You might be geeky if … and give it a go.

Spoiler space

The following video will help to cultivate your image as a person of taste and sophistication as the sound of JS Bach’s Cello Suite #1 floats above and beyond the walls of your cubicle. It should provide something of a respite for your coworkers from the usual dreck emanating from your personal Spotify channel. Meanwhile you can stealthily waste even more time on this puzzle:

Pablo CASALS (2-Down) is perhaps the best-known cellist ever–until Yo-Yo Ma, anyway. It is a shame I crossed his name with that of OSIP Mandelstam (16-Across).

The solution

(Image courtesy XwordInfo.com.)
Puzzle solution.

Theme answers: MARCH 14 (hey, that’s today!), PI DAY and EAT A PIE. Then there are the “special” answers that include numerals. Clever, right?

Pi Day T-shirt You have heard of Pi Day I hope. I know many of my geekiest friends will be celebrating today by eating a ceremonial pie. Today is in fact a special Pi Day. If the first six digits of pi, 3.14159 (see solution), are rounded up as on the T-shirt at right, voilĂ : today’s date of 3/14/16. (If you are reading this post late, don’t despair, a similar happy occurrence is slated for March 14, 2116.)

Lekcetera

A mysterious picture of a group of birdsYou will have probably noticed my clue for LEK references two unrelated meanings. The Albanian money clue is the standard one used in crossword puzzles (at least 14 times in the NYT during the Will Shortz era). I’m going to guess that a very small percentage of my blog readers will have come into contact with Albanian currency. On the other hand, for many of you, LEK is a slamdunk when clued “avian mating ground” (it has never been clued as such in the NYT–sheesh!).[1]

There were some suboptimal answers in this puzzle. Three that stand out for me: ACTS 5 (green paintish[2]), OSIP (first name of obscure–to Americans–Soviet poet Mandelstam), and REDIP (just plain ugly).

A note of thanks

University of Minnesota Campus Club Pi Day celebration announcement.This puzzle was co-published on the George Barany & Friends website, and George made a contest of it at a Pi Day event at the University of Minnesota’s Campus Club. My thanks to George and to his wide circle of crossword-enthusiast friends for their generous support and encouragement. Check out his site for a wealth of free crossword puzzles.

(George and his friends cannot be blamed for any of this puzzle’s weaknesses. Despite the opportunity to improve my puzzle with their help, I stubbornly chose to go with my original construction warts and all. You should not be surprised.[3])

Notes

  1. Yeah, yeah. I know that an avian mating ground is something many Americans find completely outside of the realm of their experience. It might be considered jargon. But according to a U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service study (see Wikipedia) one fifth (20%) of all Americans are identified as birdwatchers. Not all, but many of that number are familiar with the term “lek.” Hunters are another group likely to be familiar with the term. Perhaps crossword enthusiasts are by and large indoor types who can’t be expected to know anything about the natural world? [^]
  2. The self-described “King of CrossWorld” (whatever that is) describes “green paint” as “the term for a crossword answer that is more arbitrary word pairing than solid, stand-alone answer.” [^]
  3. I should not be so stubborn. Accepting help from others would be a great way to avoid silly mistakes such as two that persisted through the first day or two this puzzle was “live” here. Some of you saw that I had incorrectly referenced 30-Across as a theme entry. Almost all of you saw Actress Nia Peeples’s last name spelled incorrectly in a clue (one of George’s sharp-eyed collaborators pointed this out). Both errors have been fixed. [^]


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