May 07, 2006


Woo! Alan Arbesfeld doesn't include a zoo animal, but in the Sun puzzle, "Oo La La," he's got seven other two-word phrases that start with a single iteration of a [X]OO (hence no Goo Goo Dolls). Seven theme entries—that's pretty fancy puzzlin' for a Monday. Lots of Scrabbly fill, too, like ZONKS.

Good Monday puzzle by Norm Guggenbiller in the NYT. The theme entries sit BOY/GIRL/BOY/GIRL, like they're at a nice dinner, but I'm not sure what sort of conversation the VALLEY GIRL and the GOOD OLE BOY would have. CARBS, BILLFOLDS, FOGEYS, and LUSTY are nice entries...


Today's LA Times puzzle by Jack McInturff provides a lesson in the study of crossword themes. This is a good Monday puzzle (Jack McInturff's byline is generally a good sign), but let's compare this theme and Arbesfeld's theme in the Sun. This one has five theme entries ending with [X]EE words, vs. seven theme entries in the Sun. Three of them are two-word phrases, one has three words, and one has four; in the Sun puzzle, all seven have two words. In my book, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the LA Times puzzle or its theme. But the Sun puzzle by Arbesfeld goes above and beyond what I'd expect for a Monday theme, with razor-sharp consistency (if consistency can be sharp) and the inclusion of all possible candidates for the theme (at least, I couldn't think of other possibilities that fit the criteria). The LA Times puzzle might plausibly have included entries like GOLLY GEE, RUPERT JEE, ROBERT E LEE, or RIDDLE ME REE, so it's not a complete set. There had been heated discussion of Lynn Lempel's January 3 NYT, which had the COLE'S LAW/BUCK'S KIN theme I enjoyed—some people thought the theme was impaired because it had been done before and could be done many more times with fresh entries, while others (including me) opined that it matters less whether the theme uses up all possible entries and has never been done before, as long as the puzzle's well-made and entertaining. I will give props for an elegantly wrought theme like Arbesfeld's, though.

CS 3:43
NYT 3:15
NYS 3:00
LAT 2:49