August 21, 2006


NYS 5:23
CS 4:18
NYT 3:42
LAT 3:39

I'm feeling a little bit slower than usual on the crossword front this evening. I attribute this to mild PTSD arising from a home invasion wrought by a squirrel with a hankering for whole-wheat bread.

The Sun puzzle by Joe Bower, "Press Time," combined an elusive theme with plenty of unexpected fill, like SUB-ABBOT right at 1-Across, atop ON A MARCH, plus TOE OUT and freshness like UNCOLA, WET-NAP, and LISA LISA. The theme, Q AND A SESSION, sandwiched a Q and an A around a U in the other theme entries, rendering subhuman into SQUAB-HUMAN. I don't recall seeing a letter-insertion theme that dropped two letters into different spots. Anyone know of other examples?

In Michael Doran's NYT puzzle, the grid is constructed to accommodate six word pairs, in symmetrical locations, in which the cross part of a term drops out, but the remainder of the term appears twice, crossing itself (e.g., "popular puzzles" yields WORDS at 3-Down crossing another WORDS at 17-Across). This theme relies on a flagrant flouting of the "no repeated words" rule of crossword fill, and the crossing square in each theme pair is essentially an uncrossed letter (since there's no other word or clue to help you with the crossing). That actually slowed me down with the last pair, at 50-Down/59-Across. "Tough positions for soldiers" is crossFIRES, but it didn't occur to me that the crossfire takes a plural (it can, but the Google hits for the singular dwarf those for the plural)—so I vexedly tried a couple other letters before figuring out the R. I found the basic NOTION behind this puzzle to simultaneously ENCHANT and be IRKSOME. It ought to get people talking, at least.


Ben Tausig's weekly Chicago Reader puzzle, "Tabloid Twosomes," warps celebrity names even more than tabloid stalwarts like TomKat and Brangelina—made my brain work hard. I wonder if this is the first crossword to clue ONEIDA with a Brooklyn band—perhaps Matt Gaffney or Matt Jones have gone there first, I dunno. Lots of 6-letter words in this grid, too.

Bob Klahn's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Brain's Song," was entertaining and jam-packed with far more 6- to 9-letter words than most early-week puzzles. I did raise an eyebrow at OEM, but the Wikipedia article on original equipment manufacturer cleared things up...somewhat.