August 31, 2006

A most delicious Friday the 1st

NYS 15:17
NYT 6:51
LAT 5:51
CS 3:49

WSJ 8:51
Reagle [untimed]

Ooh, this is going to be a long post. Between Byron Walden's killer Sun Weekend Warrior—which took me as long as two fairly hard Saturday NYT crosswords—and David Quarfoot's terrifically entertaining Friday NYT, whoo! If only the puzzles could all be like these two. Bee-yoo-tiful. They don't have fun tricks like Pat Merrell's puzzle yesterday, but each of them knocked my socks off in different ways. (Oh please, oh please, I hope this Saturday's NYT is also a toothsome delight.)

Okay, how many easy gimmes did you have in Byron's WW? I had a frightfully small number. Maybe TSR, PIZARRO, RNA, WOOD, CLE, and PERVEZ MUSHARRAF; I should've known ENFANTS but blanked on it. The rest of the clues were more elliptical and required more pondering. Such as "Ear-piercing device?" for AIRHORN, "Decline, perhaps" for RSVP, "Traditional side on Chinese menus" for COLUMN A. It seems like the short answers in many crosswords are easier to come by, but that's not the case here—"Power button on many calculators" was one of the hardest clues for me (EXP, for exponent), and it crossed "Duck, in Durango" (who knew PATO was Spanish for "duck"? not I). The clue for KAOS was also tricky: "Smart predators." Then there's the category of Things I Just Didn't Know, like "John Winthrop's ship," ARBELLA, that SAAB has a "born from jets" slogan, and that fill-in-the-blank clue for DARKEST. When the puzzle's all done, there's so much to admire, like THE QUI VIVE and SCAREDY CAT, and the stacked –AZMATSUI– entries, KAZ MATSUI and HAZMAT SUIT. Crikey! To bundle those two entries together and cross them with a couple 15-letter entries? In a grid splashed with a Q and X, three Z's, and a couple J's? That takes constructorial cojones. Add to that still more clever clues like "Roman cube" for VIII, "With glimmers of brilliance" for STARLIT, "Put out" for SORE, and "It's in the groove" for SLOTCAR. I love it when a crossword that's completely fair (no dirty tricks) takes me an extra-long time because the clues are just so good. (However, I'd rather not encounter quite so hard a puzzle during the crossword tournament!)

The DQ puzzle is stuffed to the gills with entries I loved: 'FRAID NOT, OH ME OH MY (which, were it not a total spoiler, would be the title of this post), Rocky's YO ADRIAN, NEED CASH?, THE HEAT IS ON, VODKA GIMLET, ON THE DL, the trio of MARRY ME and I HOPE SO and WELL YES (is there a proposal in here? if so, I hope the answer isn't 'FRAID NOT or NO SIREE), MR FIX-IT, SATCHMO, TEEBALL, and ROY G BIV, to name just a few handfuls of my favorite entries. They're lively, they're fun, and this puzzle is paved with them. And the clues have their own highlights: "Person of color?" for ROY G BIV, "Under the table" for SMASHED, "One taking inventory?" for THIEF, "Try to stab, e.g." for SYNONYM (though I'd say synonym for rather than to), "Calling up trouble?" for AMNESIA, "Words with a nice ring to them?" for MARRY ME, "Sent free of charge" for EMAILED, and "Reason to move forward annually?: Abbr." for DST. I must cavil about "Sleep clinic study" as a clue for APNEA (I think I saw the same clue quite recently in another puzzle)—with the usual senses of the word study, it doesn't parse right for me. The sleep clinic study would be polysomnography, used to diagnose apnea. And I wouldn't really call apnea an area of study at the clinic, either, but including "area of" in the clue would sit better with me. Despite that one note, I thought this was a fabulous crossword.

In sum, thanks to Byron (and Peter Gordon) and David Q. (and Will Shortz) for the grand cruciverbal adventures.


Merl Reagle's punfest, "Dog Breeds I'd Like to See," is fun. The way the puns work varies, with some dog breeds changing spelling and/or pronunciation (e.g., SCHNOOZER), others tacking other words on (ARNOLD POMERANIAN), and one altered by insertion (WISENHEIMERANER).

In his LA Times puzzle, Patrick Blindauer flagrantly tosses out the rule about not repeating entries in the grid, and brings black-square action into the theme. (Do you count those 15 key black squares when totaling the number of theme squares?) I'll bet most solvers stopped cold when they got to the second repeated entry, suspected that either first or second one had to be wrong, and were perplexed when the crossings confirmed that both were correct. "What a blatant flaw!" they'd exclaim...until they continued through the grid and discovered it was all part of Patrick's plan.

I liked the theme in Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle: "I Married Jane."

Elizabeth Gorksi plays up puns on names in her Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Working on Second Careers."