July 27, 2006


NYS 7:54
NYT 4:59
LAT 4:45
CS 3:31

Reagle 7:34
WSJ 7:11

Well, it was awfully sweet of Will Shortz to run Sherry O. Blackard's latest puzzle (a 58-worder) on a Friday rather than with hardcore Saturday clues. When I last looked into it a few months ago, Sherry accounted for my longest average solving time for a single constructor; with this solving time, that average may drop a second or two below Byron Walden (if I'm not mistaken, the NYT is sorely overdue for another of his themeless creations). Anyway, Sherry's got a fantastic bunch of entries—she gets a little randy with STRIP POKER and LOVE SCENE, energetic with CONGA LINE and KNEE BENDS, botanical with GOLDENROD, SEDGE, and GRASS STAIN ("You see what you've done here—if I may—the triple S. You think that's cute? That's not cute."—Jon Stewart in Wordplay), metallic IRON and NICKEL (clued otherwise), plus SLEEPER SET and the centerpiece, LOOK MA NO HANDS. The trickiest clues for me (and hence my favorites) were "Number of mari" (SETTE, as in seven seas), "Handle holders" (CBERS), "Make bank withdrawals?" (ERODE), "Qajar dynasty's domain" (PERSIA), "Not on the edge" (INSET), and "They're more than pinches" (CRISES). Excellent production, Sherry and Will!

Patrick Blindauer's 15x16 Sun puzzle, "I's Front," plays on the pronunciation of five phrases that begin with "I." Highlights: LOLLIPOPS; CUSPID clued as "Canine with a white coat"; ELO with the obscure new clue, "Chess player Arpad or the rating system he developed" (hey, it's better than yet another ELO song title...), TOP NOTES, FLEXTIME, LOW LATIN, and FAUX PAS. I get the theme and see what the original phrases are supposed to be, but I don't quite grasp EYES UP HOSE. In the clue ("Leers at leggings?") is "leers" a verb or plural noun? Is "eyes up" an established usage?


Liz Gorski's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Foreign Imports," doesn't toy with accents like Fred Piscop's recent Sunday NYT, but rather enters the world of anagrammed cities. Hey, geography plus anagrams? Win-win!

In the LA Times puzzle by Donna Levin, the theme is phrases with Norwegian cities/words swapped in, e.g., FJORD MUSTANG, OSLO BOAT TO CHINA, BERGEN STOCKS. But what phrase is AMUNDSEN RAISINS playing on? I'm drawing a blank here.