August 07, 2006


NYS 3:28
NYT 3:27
LAT 3:18
CS 3:04

Ed Early's contribution this week is another NYT puzzle with left-right symmetry rather than 180° rotational symmetry. The theme in Van Vandiver's Sun puzzle promised to alienate me, but it turned out to be right up my alley. The NYT puzzle features a dreaded quip. Not that the quip itself is bad—I just generally feel cheated out of a theme by any quote puzzle. One vague clue for about 45 squares, with an answer you can't divine using your standard crossword-solving skills. Constructors keep making quip puzzles and editors keep publishing them, so presumably somebody likes the format—but it's not me.

The Sun puzzle, "Hold'em Holdings," has a poker theme—nicknames of starting hands in hold'em. I enjoy poker themes about as much as quote puzzles, but this particular iteration is wonderful. The poker hands have names cleverly derived from the two cards they include. The queen and jack are tagged OEDIPUS REX; 9-5, DOLLY PARTON; 7-7, SUNSET STRIP; and 5-5 is SPEED LIMIT. I never even knew that poker hands bore names like these, but the names connect to the cards so perfectly that it makes a helluva crossword theme. Then Van Vandiver wraps the theme with fill like LUCA BRASI, XANAX, and NONUNION, and I'm a happy camper.