August 29, 2006

Wednesday the 30th

NYS 5:09
NYT 3:51
CS 3:17
LAT 3:15

The other day, Will Shortz popped up at the NYT Today's Puzzle forum and mentioned that one of this week's puzzles will knock our socks off. That sounds like a twisty Thursday puzzle, or maybe a twisty-tough Friday puzzle (ooh, how I love those non-themeless Friday puzzles with a wicked kick to them!), or maybe a brutal Saturday (I can hope, can't I?).

The Wednesday NYT by Kyle Mahowald has plenty to commend it, but it's incredibly rare for a pre-Thursday puzzle to be knock-your-socks-off fancy. This crossword had a couple Z's and X's, good fill and clues, and a funny quip. Actually, that's probably a good benchmark for overall quality in the fill and clues: If a quip puzzle doesn't irk me, and if in fact I enjoy it, then the crossword must be pretty damned good. What I liked best here were GO-KARTS, MATZO ("Kind of ball"), PAID A VISIT, MR HYDE (he's getting around these days...), "More than puff" for INHALE, and "Her looks could kill" for MEDUSA. Plus there are the sub rosa dwarves, SNEEZY and HAPPY; I wonder if they originally had Snow White–related clues.

It took me a while to grasp the theme in Donna S. Levin's Sun puzzle, "All in the Family"—add a member of the family (MA, PA, SIS, BRO) to the beginning of a phrase and get the entry that's clued. Putting UNDIES in for "Her Majesty's unmentionables?" rather than PANTIES (in PALACE PANTIES) slowed me down some. (Women don't generally refer to them as "panties"—unless, of course, it fits a crossword theme.)

I have a Barnes and Noble order pending: Byron Walden's brand-new Sit & Solve Commuter Hard Crosswords (ooh, I've been waiting for this one to publish for months), three easier Sit & Solve books (two by Frank Longo, one by Patrick Berry) for my husband, and—because I needed to spend more to earn free shipping—Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Mensa Cryptic Crosswords, which seems like an awful lot of cryptics to me (I generally have a limited appetite for them), but I had it on my Amazon wish list and nobody bought it for my birthday, and Hex are reliably proficient at making kick-ass, flawless cryptics, so there you have it. I'll let you know how I like the books I do myself.


A pair of easy embedded-word theme crosswords from the LA Times (Robert E. Lee Morris) and CrosSynergy (Harvey Estes). The LA Times one includes a helper entry in the middle, without which I might've missed the cool theme.