Archive for the ‘Puzzle Construction’ Category

Comings and Goings

February 3, 2010

Triviography Breakdown

Friday’s puzzle was a lot of fun for me, as the format of picking places in Manhattan allowed me to poke around the city both virtually and physically.  I both learned some new things and got to reminisce about places past.  Some of the pairs that I chose for the “which is further uptown puzzle/quiz” were done strictly for wordplay i.e. two Terminals, John Jay Park or College, but others were trips through time and space for me.  For instance, I went to college at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus and still have a nostalgia for Lincoln Center and the surroundings.  Also, at one point of my life just about everyone who I was close to worked or lived on West 57th Street, so Carnegie Hall was a stones throw away.  I remember the GM Building for my early childhood as a place to stop near F.A.O Schwatz’s, and with the state of the American automotive industry, I thought putting it and the Chrysler building together in a puzzle was timely.

I also wanted to use two fictional addresses, and I had found one for Nero’s Wolfe’s brownstone, but I could not find any other landmarks for any other fictional New York private eyes!  That’s when the Fantastic Four’s HQ the Baxter Building jumped into my head, and fortunately when Stan Lee was creating his Marvel-verse he put things in locations he knew.  Avengers Mansion is pretty much the Frick Museum BTW.

As for Extra Virgin and Diablo Royale, the two restaurants I picked for the “West Fourth is further uptown than West Tenth” question, I must admit that I have never even set foot in either place (anyone know if either is any good?).  I just needed two restaurants and I liked the contrast of the names.  The whole West Fourth Street crossing West Tenth, Eleventh etc. is one of my favorite things to throw at newbies to the city.  Blows their mind every time, and it also gives the Village its reputation of difficulty in navigation.  This preserves what little charm the West Village has left.  Speaking of which:

Heinz Dept. – O. Henry’s and the Bar Was Called Jimmy Armstrong’s

In my musings post after Puzzle #30 I had asked for some help regarding two places that have disappeared from New York landscape, the Greenwich Village Eatery O Henry’s and a bar that a great friend of mine worked at (bloody well ran) on West 57th Street.  My sister found the location of O. Henry’s from a blog called New York Songlines, and according the site’s this virtual walking tour of West 4th Street, the location, 345 6th Avenue is now a bank.  Talk about the village losing its charm!  The bank in question is now a Capital One Bank and that is now directly across the street from a WaMu.  Sigh.  There is pretty much nothing else about the place on a google search.  I may have to, like go to a library or something for this one.  Shudder.

The bar who’s name I could not remember was Jimmy Armstrong’s.  This Clinton neighborhood joint had some tales to tell, but it too had the bad fortune to close in 2002 so precious little appears on the internet about it, but I did find a post mortem in the Times about it.

And so it goes.  New York is change isn’t it?  For those of us who desperately want to leave a mark in or on the world New York is a cruel place to live.  Beloved places vanish, majestic buildings crumble and as the people who made these places “places to be” pass on, the memories also recede.  What made O. Henry’s a long time village staple?  What made Jimmy Armstrong’s so inviting?  Mostly the people who ran the places and the people who came.  When they go, the rest of us get a bank or now a chain “pub” in the case of Armstrong’s.  In fact, right now in New York if the people who make a place special die or fall on hard times the chains are all too eager to gobble up them up and spit out a high-rise or a retail hell in their place.  I find this more than a little sad.  Which leads me to:

Brooklyn’s Loss is Seattle’s Gain

Scott M.X. Turner is one of those guys that makes something special.  He fought the Atlantic Yards Project, he hosted the Rocky Sullivan’s Pub Quiz, and he did great graphic design work for the fair people of Brooklyn (yours truly included, the Puzzling New York Blog’s logo and banner are his work).  Scott is unfortunately for us Brooklyn dwellers leaving us for the Emerald City.  I have only known Scott for a few months, but he has been more than generous to me with his time and energy.  He went to great lengths to focus my ideas for this blog’s look.  He allowed me to do many guest rounds at the pub quiz to promote my blog even though my following was nil, and he was a great “talk”.  Politics, sports, music, you name it he was sharp and game.  I will miss having him around, but Seattle won’t know what hit it.  If you want to catch Mr. Turner’s final go at quizmastering check him out tomorrow at 8:00 PM.  Need Info?  Sure thing.

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On Pyramids and Plans

January 13, 2010

Yer Outta Here!

Once again I enjoyed creating the word pyramid, and this time I got to combine two things that I love, namely puzzling and sports.  I didn’t think that the next word pyramid that I would do would be sports themed, but when I went through the list of starting letters that I hadn’t used yet the letter “K” just screamed strikeout to me.  I am fully prepared to admit that I am that geek at the ballpark who scores the game as it goes.  I only do this for baseball, as the action is slow enough to keep score and still converse with my friends in attendance.  And yes I know that keeping score is utterly unnecessary with the modern scoreboard, the iPhone, and the internet, but there is still an allure to the ol’ Luddite part of me of pen (pencil if less brave) and paper to record the game. 

As for the pyramid, I wanted to involve as many sports as possible, so to go from K to KO as a natural.  I did some quick internet research on great fights in New York’s past, and was hard pressed to top Louis/Schmeling II.  After the first two answers I ran into a tone of dead ends for subsequent ones.  It wasn’t until I changed the last answer from STRIKE OUT to A STRIKE OUT that things came together for me.  Having the extra vowel to work with freed me up and it went very well from there. 

BTW: A STRIKE OUT uses all vowels only once.  I love finding words and phrases that accomplish that, but alas, this time the five vowels are just a happy accident. 

The one clue that I was not happy with was for the answer TAKES OT, as in the game is going into overtime.  The clue I settled on: “What the basketball game needs when St. John’s ends the second half 68-68. (1 word, 1 abbrev.)” just never flowed nicely enough for me.  I struggled for a clue that would make the puzzle solver think in the present tense to get the “S” in TAKES, but the present tense in the clue never seemed to convey the word TAKES.  I wish I had found a more elegant solution for this clue, but I could not and if you didn’t get that one, I’ll take the blame for it.

Upcoming Puzzling

I have some ideas for Puzzling New York City that will be coming out in the new year.  Some are quite ambitious, and I am not sure when they will occur.  Fingers crossed and noses to grind stone y’all.  I will have announcements if and when any are warrented.

I also want to explore other traditional forms of word puzzling in the coming months and I am working on anagrams, acrostics, and something so unique that I haven’t come up with a name for it yet.  I want to increase the variety found here at Puzzling New York City, but I am sailing out of the bay and into open water, so this may take a little time.  I approach the coming year with high hopes, and great enthusiasm!  Woo hoo!  As well as some dread, and “real world” issues… sigh.  Ain’t that life?  Be back Friday with another puzzle.

Da Year Dat Wuz

December 15, 2009

If I had come into this puzzle blog with the idea that I was going to do a year-end puzzle, I would have paid more attention to what the hell happened this year.  I found it funny that after seven or eight things that popped directly into my head to use for this puzzle, I really had to think about major events that occurred within or with the help of New Yorkersto expand the list.  After a bit of Googling, I was able to flesh out the list nicely, but I am now positive that reporters that know that they will be doing ye olde year in review column save stories in a file throughout the year and bust it out come Yuletime.

Some other random observations, puzzlewise.  I really tried to get the Mets into the puzzle, but it just wasn’t to be.  The disastrous season was just like a summer long slow motion train wreck and there was just too many people getting hurt and/or playing poorly that I could not come up with one thing for a clue.  The only thing I was toying to use for the Mets was Ct Fld for Citi Field (the other brand spanking new ballpark that opened this year) but how could I leave out Chesley “Sully” Sullenburger? 

Sully landing the plane in the Hudson was the first thing that came into my head when I conceptualized the puzzle, and even though his name is easy to work out without the vowels in it, he just had to make the list.  The man landed a freaking plane in the freaking Hudson River and the worst thing that happened to the passengers was that they got a little wet.  Sorry Metsees, maybe you should’ve hired Mr. Sullenburger as manager to see if he could’ve prevented two disasters in 2009.

Lastly, a couple of thoughts on what did and didn’t make my list.  On the “made it” side of the ledger included some good brainteasers.  Hideki Matsui and Lady Gaga were particularly challenging to figure out without vowels.  Others like Meb Keflezighi and George Stephanopoulos where just awesome bunches of letters that I just had to include.  On the other hand, I wanted to include Bll llt for the Tony award-winning musical Billy Elliot, but I just couldn’t leave out Bernie Madoff.  Billy was a good story, but Bernie is pretty much a symbol for our times.  The last two things that didn’t make the cut were anything that could have worked for the puzzle that began with Q or Z.  I liked the clean feel of trying to get on person/thing event per consonant, but I came up two short.  If anyone remembers something Q or Z from 2009 drop it in the comments field.

Thanks!

X-Factor

November 18, 2009

I get so pleased with myself sometimes.  I really wanted to do a word pyramid that started with a NYC-centric “X” clue, but I wanted to steer clear of Malcom X.  For me, the use of Malcom X to start the word pyramid was both too clichéd and politically charged.  Also, strictly from a puzzling standpoint, I couldn’t come up with a good ending word that contained X in it to link back to the 60’s icon.  I remembered the X-Men of Marvel Comics fame weeks ago, but only recently remembered “Excelsior!” as a Stan Lee catch phrase.  The rest is history.  5 word pyramids down, 21 to go.

Comic books are something that makes me think of my generation.  I am in my early forties now, a post Boomer, Gen X (see what I did there?) kinda guy, and comic books is one of the things that defines my generation.  We were the first bunch of kids that didn’t “outgrow” comics and many of my friends still read them today.  The holding on the childhood things well into adulthood is a big part of my generation and I don’t know what to make of it.  In some ways, this makes Gen X a bit Polyanna-ish with a mix of creepy guy living in his parent’s basement thrown in, but also this shows a sense of fun and imagination that can be found lacking in previous generations.  Some will see my generation as Peter Pan’s who won’t grow up and avoid hard things like grown up work.  Others will see us as those who changes the rules regarding work and play, and while we certainly can be a frivolous lot, we also have a lot of heart and passion.  I think that both sides of the coin are accurate, but I like being able to embrace my geeky passions amongst my peers with minimal eye rolling, so I will lean towards the positives on this one.

Comic books did reinforce my sense of right and wrong as a youth.  Peter Parker’s revelation that “With great power comes great responsibility” resonated with me as much as anything my parents or CCD classes did.  I am also very much a left leaning person, so comics underlying messages about justice, equality, and responsibility were pretty much in sync with my basic personality in the first place.

I have a co-worker who is into super hero comics more so than I, and he told me about a conservative comic fan who lamented the fact that an overwhelming majority of mainstream comics lean left.  This is the real connection and legacy of New York on the super-hero world.  Many of the original super-heros were written and drawn by left leaning New York Jews.  They set the formulas down that work for the cape and tights lot, and that formula stems from this New York sensibility.  New York City has more than its fair share of conservatives within it boarders, but it has been a liberal town for a long time.  The New York qualities of independence linked with community, acceptance of new ideas, and progressiveness have been laid down in the DNA of the super-hero, and through this New York’s world view has spread into the minds of the youth of said world.  I for one find this to be a great thing.

Excelsior!

News and Olds

October 14, 2009

Thoughts on This Week’s Puzzle:

My boy is in bed, the bills have been paid, and I have a little time to reflect and look ahead

This week I was able to post my fourth word pyramid, and I am finding some interesting things in constructing these puzzles.  Some of the answers come fast, especially the two through six letter answers, but for every pyramid there is a seven letter or up answer that just won’t come for a looooong time.  This week it was the eight letter answer AL LETTER, and believe me I was not thrilled with having to go with that the first place.  This answer is a prime example of “puzzle speak”.  It is two words that make sense together, but let’s face it, this is just terrible syntax.  Very unnatural sounding.   I was very pleased with the other nine answers.  I wanted to use one of the single letter stock ticker symbols and ideally a letter that appeared in the words WALL STREET.  It was great serendipity that the Loews Corporation has the “L” stock ticker symbol and that the company has ties to New York City.  The rest of the answers are all familiar phrases.

These word pyramids provide me with a second challenge, and that is either coming up with New York-centric clues or finding the New York angle to more common phrases.  In this puzzle, I was more than pleased to be able to get New York Ranger great Jean Ratelle into the puzzle.  Ratelle is a just fantastic New York-centic answer.  I am a huge hockey fan (albeit not a fan of the Rangers, but we’ll just leave it there, OK?) and Ratelle was one of the all time greats.  Sadly, Ratelle’s career is kind of forgotten now, as most of Rangers history revolves around the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion team.  This is really a shame, because there are many great players in Rangers history that are overlooked because of the 54 year Stanley Cup dry spell before the ’94 championship.  Players like Ratelle, i.e. broke in with the team and/or played most or all of their careers with the Blue Shirts are punished for the team’s failure to win it all, while players who had much shorter careers on Broadway are exulted for finally bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup.  I guess this is understandable, but take a second to go to the link about Ratelle above.  He was quite a remarkable player.

Common phrases like TALLER and TALE easily lended themselves to New York themed answers.  Bob Costas was born in Queens, so his talk show LATER was in.  I never could find out through my research if that show was shot in New York.  Does anybody know?  Anybody?  Is this thing on?  I used Sunset Park for NYC kite flyers because I live right across the street from it, and there really is a lot of kite flying here in the summer and fall.  Now about AL LETTER…  I suppose I could have used Roker for Al, but Al Hirschfeld had just a bit more flair for me.  Sorry weather dude!

Heinz Dept.

Still ketchin’-up.  The very fist word pyramid that I did for this blog was inspired by the intersection of two Avenues in Brooklyn, Avenue N and Coney Island Avenue.  I wanted to use a street intersection to bookend the pyramids starting and ending answers, and I also liked the symmetry of starting with Avenue ___ and ending with _________ Avenue in the clues.  I chose this intersection purely because starting with N and ending with CONEY ISLAND made constructing the middle clues easier letter-wise.  I literally had no idea what was at this intersection.  So this summer, I took a little field trip there.  I was a little worried that the corner of N and Coney Island Ave. would be just completely nondescript, but I went with the nothing ventured nothing gained philosophy and checking out the location.

I took a pretty long walk up down Ocean Parkway and across Avenue N to get there.  I passed through predominately Jewish neighborhoods to get to the corner and when I got there I found…

AND MY PHOTOS WILL NOT UPLOAD.  GRRRRR.  I will have to get back on this one.

Just Showing Up

July 29, 2009

First Some Business:

I am just thrilled to announce that I have been invited back to do the guest round at The Rocky Sullivan’s Pub Quiz in Red Hook, Brooklyn this Thursday, July 30 at 8:00 PM.  The quiz is a blast, and MC Scott M.X. Turner makes sure that a grand time is had by all.  If you are available and near Red Hook on Thursday night, then use the above link for directions and go, go, go!

So, About Word Ladders…

Apparently the secret to word ladders is finding the right starting and ending words.  The three word ladders that I came up with for this week’s puzzle took all of 45 minutes to construct.  Which is funny, considering what happened when I tried to do a word ladder for the previous week’s puzzle.  After days of dead ends, I shelved the whole bloody thing and finished the Sister Cities puzzle the night before (and day of) posting.  The problem was that I was trying to make a word ladder that went from WOODY to ALLEN.  Even though five letter words gave me a bit more flexibility that four letter ones, it turns out that there are precious few words you can turn ALLEN into, and switching the double vowel of WOODY to the double consonant of ALLEN proved to be my undoing.  I am still fooling around with this one, and getting WOODY to ALLEN one letter change at a time is pretty much my first “Holy Grail” of puzzle construction.  Anybody got Galahad’s cell?

I really wanted to use Woody Allen for a puzzle to launch back into my sadly languishing Tuesday posts.  The Woody Allen themed puzzle was to be a bridge to a famous line of his:  “80% of success is showing up.”  I haven’t been showing up for my Tuesday posts, and this is no longer acceptable for me.  So in an effort to “show up” we have today’s post, and I would also like to introduce a new second feature to the Tuesday post:

From the Heinz Dept.

‘Cause I have a lot of ketchup to do (nyuck, nyuck).  There were many puzzles that I wanted to expand upon or offer tidbits that I learned while making them, but I did not get to.  I will be posting these things here, and I am going all the way back to my first word pyramid for the inaugural dispatch from the Heinz Dept.  One of the answers that I needed for this puzzle was “scone” and I figured that I would just Google “Best Scones in New York City”  and find out what Time Out or the Village Voice ranked as the best place to get a scone in our fair metropolis.  Well, the scone is apparently the red headed step child of baked goods, as no NYC periodical has rated “The Best Scone” in any of their ubiquitous Best Of issues.  Undeterred, I poked around sites like Chow hound and came across Alice’s Tea Cup.  Their scones were rated highly by users, I checked out their website, liked what I saw, and so I used this establishment for the scone clue.

Well, as fate would have it, one of the “you’ve hit a certain age” medical test that I went for (turns out nothings wrong with me BTW) was nearby the Alice’s Tea Cup that is located on West 73rd Street, and so I actually set foot in the place and had breakfast.  I can honestly say that the place is very charming in its quirkiness and the food was very good.  Of course I tried a scone and it was great, but the tea that I had was also very good and needed no enhancement from milk or honey.  If you are on the Upper West Side and looking for breakfast/brunch stop, go ask Alice.

Reflections of a Neophyte Puzzler

May 12, 2009

I have to admit that I had a blast creating the puzzle that launched this blog.  I like the goofy anagrams that sprinkled through the puzzle.  For example,  “played the PR kazoo” is not a good anagram puzzle-wise.  I mean the letters of “zoo” are not rearranged at all, and an experienced puzzler more than likely had no trouble getting “park” from PRKA.  I just love the phrase, played the PR kazoo.  Hell, I want to work that phrase into everyday life:

“Brittany just had another meltdown.  Whelp Bob, it looks like we have to play the ol’ PR kazoo for this one.”

I don’t even care that I am not sure exactly what that would mean.

All in all I am happy with the wordplay, and I am also surprisingly OK with some of the half-assed unfinished parts of the post.  I wanted to post my own pictures of all nine sights, but only got seven.  I wanted to have a really juicy tidbit about NYC in this post, but I only have the beginning of one.  I guess this should bother me more than it does, but really… not so much.

No one wants to hear about time constraints, and kids, and illness etc.  I am supposed to be the obsessed blogger who frets over every last detail, and is crushed by the tiniest of flaws.  I have found that by doing this blog, I just am not that guy.  I had fun doing this.  I want people to have fun solving puzzles, and as long as the puzzle is good, and on time then I am happy.

I guess every blogger wants to have a professional looking operation up and running from day one, and I am just more interested in the process.  I truly enjoyed going around Brooklyn to photograph the sights for this puzzle.  I saw new things, and reaquainted myself with some old favorites.  I passed by the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden while getting shots of Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Museum, and it felt good to watch some many people enjoy a lovely blue sky day at the Gardens.  It was also a trip to see folks dress up as there favorite anime characters, ’cause well it is a Japanese theme festival so why the hell not.

I also realize that I should have taken photos of these anime devotees as a perfect example of cool stuff in NYC.  I am still new at this, and did not.  I hope to grow in my creativity with this blog as I get more comfortable with new (to me) technologies, and getting more comfortable with just getting out and experiencing this great city again.  I’ve been inside myself for a while and I’d like to get back out and poke around a bit.

And so, this imperfect blogger has one more puzzle for you.  Do you know what this is?

JFK Memorial

This is the JFK Memorial at Grand Army Plaza.  There is a small problem with it.  It has no bust of JFK anymore!  I found this out when researching another puzzle that will be ready in the not too distant future.  So what happened to Jack?  The Wall Street Journal Reported on this in November of 2008.  It is all about aesthetics and cash, or the current lack thereof.  Isn’t that the  story about all public art?  Now, this is where I had hoped to delve a little deeper in this story, but I have not found any updates.  I know a guy who might know I guy, so I will dig a bit to get more info in the fate of JFK’s bust in the future.

BTW, Brooklyn is the only borough to have both a JFK and RFK memorial.  Bobby’s bust is in front of the court houses at borough hall.  This is more than a touch ironic since Robert Kennedy unveiled his brother’s memorial in 1965.

See everyone Friday for the next puzzle!