October 21, 2005


To quote the immortal Homer, "D'oh!" I liked Patrick Berry's Saturday NYT, except for one word and its pesky "American English only" spelling in place of the more oft-seen diaeresis. I could've done without the brain freeze that made me eschew the E instead of the A, which rendered the crossing "short, of a sort" incomprehensible, and made me doubt the R in WARE, further muddling things. I pieced it together, but it took me an extra 3 minutes.

Aside from that little trauma, what did this puzzle offer? A shout-out to the movie Lost in America, which is forever in my heart for Albert Brooks' (real name: Albert Einstein) tirade about nest eggs, nests, and eggs. I'm rather surprised to see "two-fisted" as a clue for VIRILE; somebody explain this to me, please—because women can be two-fisted drinkers too. And did you know VIRILE and VIRAGO have the same root? Never heard of the bespectacled owl character or the '30s actress GLENDA (yup, looks like a Saturday all right). As for CIGARILLO, were you aware that these are now available in flavors like peach and grape? Must be a subtle attempt to reach the younguns. I liked DEEPSIXED (tried to fit JETTISONED in first), LES ASPIN, EDITED OUT, and PUMPS IRON. Odd to have two trade names stacked together at 1A and 15A, isn't it?


Henry Hook's LA Weekly puzzle made me a little dizzy with its vertiginous theme. Happy birthday (whenever it was), Henry.

I liked the theme in Con Pederson's WaPo puzzle, especially ASCENT OF A WOMAN and AGATES OF HEAVEN. Overall, it seemed easier than the Hook puzzle, except for the SE corner that bogged me down.

I had just been wondering whether Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke had attempted a themeless puzzle, and then their LA Times puzzle popped up today with three triple-stacked 15s. Not a very tough Saturday themeless, but then we look to the NYT for that.

This week's Saturday "Stumper" stumped me for a whopping 25 seconds longer than the always-easy CrosSynergy puzzle. I've been wending my way through Stan's Cranium Crackers, which contains 100 puzzles that I presume are old Stumpers. The quality and challenge level varies widely. Some puzzles took a mere 4 minutes. Some are perfect (particularly the ones by Brendan Emmett Quigley). Some took me 20+ minutes and a peek at the answers to penetrate the Maleskan gloom of words like TEMS ("textile chemicals"), UHNAK ("cop novelist"), and PAON ("peacock blue")—and I do not care for Maleskan gloom. Give me Shortzian elan any day. Anyway, there are some gems in there, and the book's only $6.95, so if intermittent plunges into the Maleskan deeps don't daunt you, check it out.

If I won the lottery, here's what I'd do with the money: I'd become a decadent patron of the puzzling arts. Puzzles by my favorite constructors generally show up only a couple times a month, at most. With my spare millions, I could afford to woo the constructors to make extra-challenging puzzles for an extremely limited audience (me). While they are surely motivated partly by the fame of national newspaper syndication, who would turn down, say, $500 or $750 to make a single 15x15? Alas, I never buy lottery tickets, so this plan is unlikely to come to fruition.

NYT 10:26 (ah, I still remember the 7:11 I saw when I was almost done)
LAT 5:21
Stumper 3:51
CS 3:26

LA Weekly 9:28
WaPo 9:27