June 03, 2006


The Saturday NYT is a BEQuintessential offering from Brendan Emmett Quigley. You've got your hipster vibe (modest author DAVE EGGERS, PABSTS, cradle of punk rock CBGB'S), lively phrases (TAPAS BAR, NO REGRETS, MAKE A SCENE, TOP SECRET, and R-LESS, "like English pronunciation in most of England"), and Scrabbly nuggets (CAJOLED, ZANIEST, BERSERK, and FUJI, clued as "film maker" rather than "Japanese peak"). Then add in superlatively clever clues—my favorite was "refuse visitors" for RATS (a prime example of clues that can mislead the solver about the part of speech that's hinted at), but I also liked "Heated competition?" for MEET and "soft support" for EIDERDOWN. Then you mix in three quarters of a cup of obscurities for Saturdayish good measure: "Najda" actress ELINA Löwensohn, gyroscope inventor Elmer SPERRY, and MEROE, the "ancient capital on the Nile" (read about the Meroites here). I still don't get how "windjammer" is GOB; the source I checked says the latter is a sailor and the former is a boat. Anyone?


Well, I'm too competitive to resist a good challenge, so when I heard Stan Newman's Saturday Stumper was a toughie, I had to try my hand at it—even though it was late and I was drowsy. I should've waited until this morning, with a fresh round of caffeine, because that poky solving time throws this puzzle into the ranks of killers like the harder puzzles in Frank Longo's Mensa book. Good entries and great clues throughout (particularly 1-Across, which I won't spoil because I don't want to nudge anyone along to be faster than me!).

Rounding out the day's themeless feast is Bruce Venzke and Vic Fleming's LA Times puzzle, with an impressive nine 15-letter entries grouped into triple stacks. The cluing was very approachable, though, making it easy to fill in the grid quickly. There were some obscurities in the grid—hard to avoid with such an ambitious structure—but the crossings were all workable. As long as you know Barbara BAIN was in the old "Mission: Impossible," you can guess the "city northeast of Venice," UDINE.

Newsday 15:00
NYT 6:46
LAT 3:51
CS 3:26