September 21, 2006

Friday! 9/22

NYT 6:34
NYS 6:17
LAT 5:35
9/8 CHE 4:17
CS 3:17

Reagle 8:40
WSJ 8:13

I love Crossword Fridays. The Saturday NYT is great, of course, but the Sun doesn't publish a crossword on Saturday, and Fridays are when the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Wall Street Journal pony up some puzzles, and when Merl Reagle's Sunday puzzle is generally posted online. Friday = good.

Sherry Blackard crafted the NYT puzzle; Gary Steinmehl, the Sun. Usually Sherry's themelesses are among the most challenging for me, but I think this week's is a bit easier than her standard whipping. Easier than normal, sure, but still not easy, as Sherry threw some not-too-familiar words at me: for example, there's the M1 GARAND rifle, which I should have known but blanked on, crossing the salts (BORATES, but I blindly gave it an -ITES ending), and there's the defense contractor LORAL Corporation, which crossed the old Welsh boxer, Tommy FARR. Sherry (or Will) threw me a curveball with the clue for crossword standby OAST, [Old-fashioned buildings in the English countryside]; read this interesting write-up about oast houses and check out the photo. Great fill and clues, eh? Namely, LITTLE TOE/[Fifth of five], GRIZZLY BEAR/[Yellowstone sight] (hey, OLD FAITHFUL also has 11 letters), MAI TAI/[It may be found under an umbrella], [Ghost of literature] crossing CASPER, Wyoming, GARAGE/[Tower's end?], SPATULAS/[Ones turning on stoves?], and GO AWOL/[Emulate a base runner?].

In the Sun, Gary Steinmehl's "Turnabout" title hinted strongly that the theme answers would be backwards; the interesting twist here is that they spell something clueable in reverse. For example, SPOTS SUB is bus stops backwards, and SNUG NUTS is stun guns. Better yet, all seven of the backwards-and-forwards entries split the words in the same place. My favorite clue was [Like a boxer, say] for CANINE. I didn't quite get why [Anaconda payment] was ANTE; turns out Anaconda's a variety of poker. The black guillemot is a kind of auk. My Googling didn't turn up any reference to it being called SEA DOVE (little auk and dovekie appear to be synonymous with sea dove, but I'm not really up on my Northern seabirds).


Patrick Berry's Chronicle of Higher Ed puzzle from the 8th has a cute theme.

Manny Nosowsky's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Health Plan Exclusions," taught me a drumming word: You can listen to FLAM midi files here. I'm still at a loss for one clue: Why are [Pen holders?] BARS? Oh, wait, I get it, finally. Prison bars hold people in the pen. Tricky clue!

Merl Reagle's theme includes 13 entries pertaining to Rocky and Bullwinkle. I knew only four of them—hooray for Down entries! I couldn't have done it without them.