August 12, 2006


NYT 10:33
WaPo 10:05
LAT 8:39
BG 8:29
CS 3:52

After I finished Derrick Niederman's NYT puzzle and really scoped out the theme, I said to myself, "Hot damn!" The 13 symmetrically placed theme entries make up an exceptional (and complete) set of entries for this particular theme. The title is "13 x 2 = 26*" and the theme clues are marked by asterisks (most are the same length as or shorter than some other non-theme entries). The deal here is that each theme phrase starts with two letters that are initials or abbreviations, and the 13 pairs of letters make up the entire alphabet—i.e., JR EWING, UN RESOLUTION, YA TITTLE, and IQ TEST account for eight letters, which don't appear in the other bigrams in the theme entries. Now, in a perfect world (which doesn't exist), perhaps entries like AMFM, T BAR, and X-RAY would be verboten, and the river INN wouldn't appear near INNKEEPER—but in my book, the sheer coolness of the theme is ample recompense. I can't imagine how long it took Niederman to come up with a list of entries that used up the alphabet and could be placed symmetrically in the grid and didn't prevent him from getting publishable fill around them. I didn't know who former Milwaukee Brave Lee MAYE was, but now I do. And those of you who didn't know of Marilyn MCCOO until three days ago, aren't you glad Todd McClary included her in his puzzle? That river INN flows through Innsbruck, Austria; Innsbruck means bridge on the Inn (that last link gives some interesting etymology of Germanic place names—check it out if you're that sort of geek).


Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge includes two vertical triple-stacks of 15-letter entries, plus one crossing where two entries end with Q.

In Eric Berlin's LA Times syndicate puzzle, "Reverse English," I didn't grasp the theme until I'd filled in four theme entries—the first one, THE LONGEST DRAY, looked like The Longest Day with an R rather than The Longest Yard with the last word backwards. (Nice mislead.) There was one deadly little crossing. If you don't know that "Clandestine maritime organization" is ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence), then it could just as plausibly be ONN—and the crossing, "Put down," could yield the past-tense LAID or present-tense LAND.

Lynn Lempel ventures into Sunday-sized territory (is this her Sunday debut?) in the Washington Post puzzle, "Tree Huggers," with tree names embedded in the theme entries.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle, "Cha-Cha-Cha," adds an initial CH to one of the words in each theme entry. Henry has a couple notable entries I haven't seen before: AGGRO, British slang for aggravation/aggression. It's also used in massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and in Germany, and in a bike racing business. There's also "Pair from Masschusetts?" as a clue not for SAME-SEX SPOUSES but rather, SMALL T'S. (Oy.)