February 15, 2006


With the NYT timed applet running on empty tonight, I meant to print out Levi Denham and Nancy Salomon's puzzle for extra on-paper practice. But I promptly forgot that plan and solved it via keyboard instead of pen. Anyway—the rebus began to reveal itself to me in SCI[FI], but even after I'd filled in the four long entries with rebus squares, I was still stuck in the middle for a startlingly long time until it dawned on me that the 4-letter "ominous cry" would BE [FEE][FI][FO][FUM]. Voila! I have defeated the giant. (Must be that Englishwoman blood in me.) Fun theme, well executed. Levi and Nancy have certainly earned their magic beans this time. P.S. The puzzle didn't load in the applet because it's only 14x15; I hadn't counted across, but the central 4-square entry should have been a tip-off.

I always enjoy a puzzle that pushes the grid's boundaries, and the Sun puzzle ("X Out") by Lee Glickstein and Vic Fleming is no exception. With different clues for the long vertical entries, this would merely be a good, if reasonably ordinary, crossword. But the central HANG TEN instructs you to hang a T, E, and N from the bottom of the long entries, transforming those phrases into new ones. (I don't want to think about how long it took to come up with three 15-letter phrases that could be re-clued if those particular letters were added to the end of each phrase.) I tried connecting the dots, the dots being the five instances of the letter X in this puzzle—but they don't really form a decent surfboard. Regardless of that, well done, gentlemen!

Updated: Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Nonsense," features synonyms for nonsense. Curious about the eytmology of those words? According to my shiny, new Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, BALDERDASH dates back to 1590–1600 and is of obscure origin. FLAPDOODLE goes back to 1820–1830 and has an uncertain origin. MOONSHINE means just that, but the term dates back to Middle English (1375–1425). Finally, POPPYCOCK actually has some specifics: The American usage began in the 1840s and the word may derive from the Dutch pappekak, pappe meaning "pap" and kak meaning "excrement." Papcrap?)

NYT 5:12
NYS 4:56
LAT 3:52
Newsday 3:14 (on paper)
CS 3:02