April 29, 2006


Wonderful NYT puzzle by Robert Wolfe! Seeing the spread in applet solving times—an impressive 7:00 for Byron Walden, a handful of other folks at roughly double that time, and Tyler Hinman at nearly 10 minutes behind Byron. I approached the puzzle this afternoon with some trepidation; between the applet standings and a fearsome migraine, what hope did I have of a Googleless finish? A decent hope, as it turns out; perhaps there's an advantage to be gained in already having the headache, rather than obtaining it in the course of doing this puzzle? Going from corner to corner, let's take a look at what's worthy of mention in this beasty (and there's a lot). "Caterpillar engager" for ALICE is clever. "Need for a third degree?" = a Ph.D. THESIS. "Taking a grand tour, say" = IN EUROPE, which I recently decided ought to be called the "In Continent." Which brings us to the entry just below it, CASCARAS—the dried bark of the "buckthorn trees with medically useful bark" is used in laxatives. "They bring tears to one's eyes" = DUCTS, of course. "Take illegally" = PIRATE (yo ho ho!). "Beat poets?" = RAP ARTISTS. Moving downward on the left, "NHL'ers, e.g." = ICE SKATERS (not HOCKEY TEAM). "Spam producer" = HORMEL. (I've not been to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, but have a family friend who retired from the Spam-producing plant nearby. The museum was founded because so many tourists from Japan were making pilgrimages to Austin anyway; the Filipinos and Hawaiians are also huge Spam fans, of course.) "Leaf sides" - RECTOS. "Winning full house, for short" = ACES OVER; cute to have that crossing BETTERS (which isn't "bettors," though). Two tricky 3-letter words in the center: "puffer's place" for SEA and "Media center?" for DEE. In the lower right corner, a total gimme ("Actor Wass" = TED—he first gained fame on Soap and later played the dad on Blossom) helped crack open that area. "Beauty spot" = SALON is obvious, and yet sneaky—like many of the clues in this puzzle. Up above, "couple in a date" = SLASHES (as in "today is 4/29/06"). "Not the common way" = SIDE STREET. "Place for debauchery" = STY, as in the second definition here.


While solving Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Films of Ire-Land," I made a mental note to mention here how it always cracks me up when people misspell khan as the surname Kahn...and then it turned out that the puzzle actually included WRATH OF KAHN instead of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. (Ouch.) I think David Kahn should have another book of his crosswords and call it Wrath of Kahn.

Alan Olschwang's themeless LA Times puzzle includes a central triple stack crossed by a fourth 15-letter entry.

NYT 8:36
Newsday maybe 6ish minutes?
LAT 4:47
CS 3:24