Friday, March 2, 2012

Dr Fill Revealed!

On Feb 16, 2011 I wrote a column on Ryan & Brian's site that predicted the appearance of Dr. Fill. Sadly, that site is gone, so I reproduce the column here.

By now I’m sure you have all seen or heard about “Watson”, the IBM computer that plays
Jeopardy. What you may not know is that part of his programming involved trying
to emulate top Jeopardy player Ken Jennings. When the programmers discovered
that Ken had attended an American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, they decided to
have Watson emulate other top solvers. Unfortunately, the test had several
problems. I have exclusively obtained the top secret test result notes,
describing Watson’s behaviour after simulating several solvers.

Brian Cimmet – Watson stopped solving after seeing “NLER”, deleted the puzzle and
started listening to Sondheim tunes.
Andrea Carla Michaels – Watson demanded a share of the winnings and wanted to rename
Brendan Emmett Quigley – Watson started listening to obscure bands and pining for
“Grandpa Typewriter”.
Al Sanders – No results. Watson can’t solve exclusively on paper.
Howard Barkin – No noticeable pattern but somehow one of the fastest solves.
Will Shortz – Watson rejected 90% of the puzzles and started plugging a great new
number game.
Ellen Ripstein – Watson started describing the lousy paint job in his lab and wanted
to go off and see obscure movies and plays.
Jeffrey Krasnick – Watson started whining about the Expos moving to Washington DC.
Amanda Yesnowitz – Watson now speaks in clever rhymes.
Matt Gaffney – If you can guess the results, you will get a Watson pen and pencil
Deb Amlen – Watson is now witty but will need to be bleeped around children.
Rex Parker – Watson started critiquing the puzzles. All the other computers started
arguing about Watson’s opinions.
Dan Feyer– Data lost. Watson solving so quickly that the fan blew, shorting the system.
Joon Pahk– Mixed results. Science questions nailed but 80’s music file has been deleted.
Amy Reynaldo – Watson solved and blogged about the puzzles in no time, then started
demanding harder puzzles.
Vic Fleming – Watson is gonna be down as it couldn’t come across.
Kevin Der –Watson now insisting all black squares be removed.
Peter Gordon – Data useless. Nothing can be repeated.
Stan Newman – Watson found Monday to Friday easy as pie but is stumped by Saturday,
muttering “too vague” over and over.
PuzzleGirl – Data incomplete. Watson started playing an Iowa wrestling app.
Jim Horne – Watson stopped solving and is busy playing FreeCell.
Tyler Hinman – Watson solved quickly but then started ranting about public transit
and college hockey officiating.
Anne Erdmann – Watson kept claiming it had no chance to win and then won.
Ryan Hecht – Watson got stuck in a NEAR MISS/NEAR HIT infinite loop.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Crosscan Blogs the Vancouver Province Crossword

The Province newspaper in Vancouver has replaced the LA Times puzzle with one that they claim is "a brilliant crossword that is at once Canadian and modestly difficult". I can't find it online or print a solution, but let's take a look at the Friday puzzle.

Friday, April 24, 2009 – by unknown.
Number of words – 86
Number of black squares – 38.
Number of 3-letter words - 20
Theme - Laundry detergent
Theme answers – Wave rider (SURFBOARDER)
Academic settings – (IVORY TOWERS)
CFL entertainer – (CHEERLEADER)
Cause a reversal – (TURN THE TIDE). We use Tide.

Ho-hum theme, inconsistent use in the last answer with TIDE at the end instead of the beginning. Unless TURN is a laundry detergent. I don't think so.

Canadian content:
CFL entertainer (CHEERLEADER). CFL is Canadian Football League. NFL would have been too hard I guess, even though the Buffalo Bills now play some home games in Toronto.

Henley participant(ROWER). Reference is to the Royal Canadian Henley regatta. Never heard of it. This August will be the 127th version, so I guess it may be famous to Canadian rowers. Why not reference one of our gold-medal Olympic rowers, who are quite famous.

Canadian skating champ Jelinek (OTTO). 1962 gold-medalist in pairs. Became a politician and was Minister of National Revenue when I worked at Revenue Canada, so he was technically my boss for a couple of years in the early 1990s. Not sure how many people remember him now.

Bit of curling (END). As in bit of baseball (INNING). Canadian gimme.

I'm still bored.

Other answers over 5 letters:
Gambolled and frolicked (PLAYED)
Clunky shoes (SABOTS)
Send flying (SCATTER)
Good luck charm (AMULET)
Go over again (REHASH)
Earthy tones (OCHRES)
A couple of fins (TENNER)
City north of Lisbon (OPORTO). Perhaps I'll visit on my way to ESPOO,
Highland boy (LADDIE)
Dumbfounded (AT A LOSS). My reaction to this puzzle.

Pop Culture:
“The _____ Ranger” (LONE)
Lennon’s Plastic _____ Band (ONO)
Gable or Garbo (STAR)
Charlie Parker’s sax (ALTO)
References to anything current: none

This puzzle is so boring I'm embarrassed to be Canadian. Where's my link to the LA TIMES?

Monday, February 9, 2009



I don’t have access to the New York Times paper so we’ll start with the online easy 4x4.
Solving time: 29 seconds.

I started with placing a 2 in the 1x1 box that has a 2 in it. Nice job! I then filled in the other numbers. The puzzle has 4 1’s, 4 2’s, 4 3’s and 4 4’s in it. Just like last week.

Answer of the day: 3x2x3 = 18.

KenKenese alert: 2/1 = 1. Again!

What I liked: Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all used.

What I hated: The four corners only used 1 and 2. What’s wrong with 3 and 4?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

2008 Crosscan Awards

Hi and welcome to the first(and likely last) annual Crosscan awards for favorite New York Times Crossword puzzles. Winners have been chosen by me, and all decisions are final.

Favorite Monday - October 6 - Patrick Blindauer "Dollar Bill"

Favorite Tuesday - December 2 - Matt Ginsberg - "Sound of..."

Favorite Wednesday - March 12 - Larry Shearer - "C"

Favorite Friday - April 4 - David Quarfoot - "Q"

Favorite Saturday - December 6 - Ashish Vengsarkar & Narayan Venkatasubramanyan - "TEN-OR-S"

Favorite Sunday - November 16 - Merl Reagle - Sounds Like Somebody I Know

Favorite Thursday and Favorite Puzzle of 2008- June 19 - Joe Krozel - "Lies"

Favorite Answer of 2008 - KITE EATING TREE [Dreaded victimizer of Charlie Brown] - May 17 - Mike Nothnagel

Favorite Clue of 2008 - [They have people eating in a lot] - TAILGATE PARTIES - June 13 - Patrick Berry

Longest clue for the shortest answer - [Sylvia Plath poem that begins "I know the bottom, she says. I know it with my great tap root"] - ELM - June 22 - Pamela Amick Klawitter

Favorite Crosscan post - Hosers - August 6