Surprise, not a puzzle! I wanted to recap all of the great info I took in during the Saturday Stumper Downs Only challenge ea hosted on Twitch this past Sunday (7/22/18). The basic premise is this - Erik attempts to do Stan's Saturday Stumper by only using the down clues. Andy, Laura, and I provide banter/keep track of the chat.
For context, Andy and Laura are both bosses in the crosswording world. Andy helped run the indie500 this year in DC (which I then embarrassingly realized means he selected me as one of the winners of best-worst answer) and Laura was a constructor for the Indie, as well as for the upcoming BossWords in Boston. Even my dad asked me, 'how the heck did you get invited to this?'. I honestly couldn't tell you but I'm assuming it has to do with my shared love of Elena Delle Donne's WNBA career.
Now if the other commentators weren't enough, the Twitch participants were equally if not more so intimidating. The writer of the puzzle, Brad Wilber, was there. Neville Fogarty was there. Everyone seemed to know each other by first name alone. It was wild.
In addition to learning just how difficult a.) the Stumper is and b.) doing A/D's only are, lots of good tips came out of the discussion, especially for a minor-leaguer like myself.
1. Find a foothold and dig in - don't do all the acrosses and then all the downs, if you can get a few clues next to each other, work outwards from there (luckily I've already adopted this method)
2. Yes V, your '_M_ _ OR' hack is totally valid and it's not a scrub move - I confessed that whenever there's a clue that starts 'Key of blah blah blah song/concerto', I immediately enter M, O, and R, as those are shared letter patterns by MAJOR or MINOR.
3. Trying 'downs only' or 'acrosses only' can help with regular solve times - I asked whether attempting A/D Only was beneficial for overall solving, and the overall sentiment was that it makes you more aware of common letter patterns and help in regular competitions. I just tried doing this TODAY, and I've got to say it's a ton of fun.
4. Blogging can also help with solve times - A few folks said that when they started blogging, they were able to remember the clues/answers that had hung them up before. It's almost like all of those times professors told you to take notes would help with retention were ACTUALLY right, go figure ...
Aside from all of the useful tips, it was great to be a part of such a welcoming, friendly, and witty community. For other crossword communities, folks suggested CrosswordFiend (blog), Fill Me In (podcast), and the Crossword sub reddit.