March 19, 2006


I seldom have anything much to say about the puzzles that come out on Monday and Tuesday. Earl Reed and Nancy Salomon's NYT puzzle was straightforward, no tricks, nothing much to slow anyone down—in other words, an unadulterated Monday puzzle. (P.S. Those of you who ever have cause to write Nancy's last name, please do heed the spelling: it's Salomon, not Solomon or Salamon or whatever. just think of it as "salon" with a meditative "om" near the middle.) One quibble about the clue for IMACS—here and elsewhere, IMAC(S) is often clued with a reference to the bright colors the iMac had for its first few years. But iMacs have been plain white and metal for the past four years. Puzzle editors, it's time to upgrade your cluing conventions!

I haven't done puzzle #5 from the Starbucks/NYT contest yet, but my husband has once again picked up the puzzle on a coffee run and then scanned it in for me. He bought the Sunday NYT in week 1, but has been able to just get the puzzle insert the past four weeks. The barista was reluctant to hand over the puzzle this morning, complaining that someone had taken five puzzles earlier, but did give up the goods. Does that chap your hide if you're one of those people whose local stores claim never to have heard of the contest? Yep, I lucked out that the place two blocks away hasn't missed the boat once.


You know, that Starbucks contest must be driving a lot of people nuts. Not because the Patrick Berry/Will Shortz puzzles are unreasonably difficult (they haven't hit Saturday NYT level yet; and this is beside the point, but I love the extra puzzle within each one), but because so many Starbucks stores are leaving their puzzle-seeking customers high and dry. Are there store managers who just don't open the packages they get from headquarters? How could that many stores have staff claiming never to have heard of the contest? I mean, really. Sure, the puzzles are available through the mail if you send in your SASEs by today, but you'll receive photocopies. Yes, that's right—puzzle #4 with the puzzle-piece perforations, photocopied. I'll show you where the perfs are, and I'm happy to share my scanned (blank) versions with people who couldn't obtain the puzzles locally (just send me a note at orangexw [at] gmail [dot] com). But it'd be nice if everyone who wanted to participate in the contest didn't have to grapple with logistical frustrations before they could even do battle with the puzzles. I'm sure a lot of people simply gave up. Fewer rivals for me, yes, but I'd rather out-solve them than beat them because their local stores let them down.

Robert E. Lee Morris’s Sun puzzle, “Fruit Filling,” has fruit names embedded within the theme entries. Especially apt was the last one, ANK[LE MON]ITOR, clued with a reference to Martha Stewart—who, when asked what she missed most in prison, famously replied, “Lemons.” Harvey Estes pays homage to the late Don Knotts in today's CrosSynergy puzzle. Gia Christian (an anagram of "it's Rich again") marks the official start of spring in today's cute LA Times puzzle. The Newsday puzzle was an easy one, as it always is on a Monday—I learned in the documentary Wordplay that Al Sanders never quite cracks the 2-minute mark on the Newsday puzzle, and dagnabbit, I'm a whopping 18 seconds off. Maybe in a few more years, I'll make it...

CS 4:15
NYS 3:25
LAT 2:56
NYT 2:43
Newsday 2:18 (on paper)