February 05, 2006

Sunday worship

Okay, I've finished Eric Berlin's puzzle, having slowed down a few times to see if the numbers in the theme clues corresponded to the letters in the boxes with those numbers, which of course they didn't. The 5x5 black box in the middle and the fact that the numbers in the clues ranged from 1 to 25 should have tipped me off sooner (but hey, there's no explanatory notepad to view in the timed applet). The message that resulted after deciphering the extra answers clued by the theme entries and entering the letters thereof into a 5x5 grid was "WALKERS OUTDISTANCE RUNNERS." This made sense to my husband, a marathoner, while the notepad says it's "a bit of advice about getting ahead." Interestingly enough, if you Google that exact phrase, the search comes up empty (but not for long). P.S. Over on the NYT forum, Ghulam Faruki notes that Eric used each of the numbers from 1 to 25 exactly twice. Hot damn! That's some fancy puzzlin'.

Aside from the standard Eric-Berlin-comes-up-with-a-twist aspect of the puzzle, there was some mighty fine fill in there. Down below the big black area, did you notice the vowel-free SWF and HTML crossing WMDS? I can't say I recall seeing other consonant-only entries stacked together like that before, unless you count those terrific vwllss pzzls that pop up from time to time. If you're like me, you'd never heard of the "red squirrel named for the sound it makes, the CHICKAREE; whaddaya know, it pretty much looks like a quiet squirrel. Anyway, great puzzle. Thanks to Eric for concocting the thing and to Will Shortz for printing (and presumably honing) it—aside from plain ol' hard themeless puzzles, my favorites are the oddball puzzles with ingenious twists that we see every so often in the NYT, the Sun, or Games/Games World of Puzzles.

Here's Eric's explanation of the puzzle's genesis and development.


Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's LA Weekly puzzle, "Leading Lights," kicks off Black History Month with a theme of eight symmetrically placed civil rights leaders (including the late CORETTA SCOTT KING), supplemented with four shorter entries (such as ROSA Parks and Julian BOND) salted throughout the grid. Not to mention four other noted African-Americans (musicians and athletes), a partial entry from a gospel song title, and the word RACISTS. Add all those entries together, and you've got 165 thematically apt squares (double-counting the squares where two of these entries cross). And then there's DARK TAN (clued as "suede hue"), which my little boy considers a more accurate descriptor of skin color than "black." Kudos to Hex for ending up with a theme-packed puzzle that also serves as a nice tribute to Coretta Scott King.

The LA Times puzzle by Jack McInturff, "Senate High Jinks," plays around with senators' names to good effect. My favorite theme entry was FEINGOLD JEWELRY.

Good CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge by Bob Klahn. He managed to include three people in the grid with their first and last names—always a nice touch.

Patrick Berry's 1/20 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, published the week of Ben Franklin's 300th birthday, features a long quote (70 letters long). You know how I feel about quote puzzles, but at least this quote was surrounded by some fairly challenging fill and clues. And I was pleased to encounter "buffalo seen in crosswords"—according to the Cruciverb database, the crosswords of note made it through all of 2005 without the poor ANOA. Welcome back, endangered Celebes ox.

WaPo 10:33 (on paper)
LAT 10:25 (while consulting on TiVo cleanup)
NYT 9:44
LA Weekly 9:15 (on paper)
1/20 CHE 6:23
CS 5:32