May 30, 2006


Damn you, Trip Payne! I was all set to be disappointed that your skills were being frittered away on a Wednesday puzzle instead of used to craft a challenging themeless puzzle later in the week. And then the puzzle turned out to be mighty easy for a midweek puzzle, which should also be disappointing. But your theme was so much fun—academic degrees as initials—I had to forgive you. The highlight was "Ph.D. in Communications?" for PHIL DONAHUE. (Was that the theme's seed?)

Ben Tausig's Chicago Reader puzzle this week just might be the first to include CRUNK, "stoned and inebriated, slangily." The word appears to combine the "c" from "chronic" with the "runk" from "drunk." Crunk isn't just a slang word, though—it's also a genre of Dirty South rap. Three 6 Mafia, who won an Oscar for the pimp-themed song they performed on the Academy Awards telecast, helped pioneer crunk.

In Kelsey Blakley's "Double Back" puzzle in the Sun, three two-word theme entries have an extra letter plunked down after each word; e.g., "mach speed" becomes MACHO SPEEDO. The theme doesn't take up that many squares, but there's some great fill criss-crossing the grid—such as BBQ SAUCE, FAT ALBERT, and CRAFT FAIR (I like finely crafted objects made of glass or wood, but most of the stuff I've seen at those fairs makes me call them "crap fairs").

Tausig 5:45
NYS 4:44
LAT 3:31
CS 3:23
NYT 2:58