October 05, 2006

Friday, 10/6

NYT 10:03
NYS 5:34
9/22 CHE 5:06
CS 3:26

Reagle 9:21
WSJ 8:29

The crossword sphere conspired against me today. I did Tony Orbach's Sun puzzle, and wow! It was far more tractable than the typical themed Friday Sun puzzle. Then 9:00 p.m. (Central) rolled around and I got right to work on the Friday NYT by Nancy Joline. Yow! That one knocked me (and numerous others) down a peg with Saturday-tough cluing.

Orbach's Sun theme, "Dose of Reality in New York," shouted itself in 17-Across (TAN DEM BIKES), giving away the BROOKLYNESE descriptor at 58-Across. I made a few wrong turns here and there in the fill, but overall, it was nowhere near as challenging as most Friday Suns are.

The missing challenge got added into the Joline puzzle, where it made goo-goo eyes at another challenge, and then the two challenges crept away for a night of passion and bred new baby challenges to take up residence with them in the puzzle. Okay, so maybe it wasn't quite that hard, but sheesh! It's Friday, not Saturday. So, why did this puzzle take me about 65% longer than most Friday NYTs? Wicked clues. Nothing overtly duplicitous—just a lot of vague clues that I stared at blankly for a while. My first misstep was trying to fill in the too-short PSEUDONYM for [George Orwell, e.g.]—it wasn't until some crossings eventually filled themselves in that NOM DE PLUME occurred to me. The clue for 32-Across, [Settled], could mean so many things; I ventured LODGED long before I pieced together SAGGED. 3-Down had a vague fill-in-the-blank clue, ["___ what?"]; turned out to be MEANING. Also in that upper left quadrant (which stymied me the most), [Coil] for HANK; I thought to myself, hmm, a coil isn't what I think of when I hear that word, but lo and behold, it's definition 1. I take comfort in the fact that I wasn't the only one left bloodied by this puzzle—why, there are Community Blood Services tournament hotshots Bob Mackey and Howard Barkin, both minutes behind me. Excellent work by Nancy Joline and Will Shortz, and kudos to Cole Kendall for solving this puppy in less than 7 minutes.


I found the clues in Jack McInturff's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle hard, too. An asteroid and a star, not to mention a [Laptev Sea feeder]? Those felt rather obscure to me. The historical theme also slowed me down—LEWIS AND CLARK I know, of course, but the name of the group they led? Not so much.

In Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "When Zookeepers Don't Get Along," there was one small word that was a huge gimme: [Senate runner], 4 letters. Ha! The theme entries required more piecing together with help from the crossings, whereas the theme in Colin Gale's Wall Street Journal puzzle was much more accessible (I don't always grasp the theme in a 21x21 by the second theme entry).