October 13, 2006

Saturday, 10/14

NYT 19:17
Newsday 7:26
LAT tba
CS 2:45

Oh. My. I finished Byron Walden's Saturday NYT crossword in about 13 minutes...except for that one wrong letter it took another 6 minutes to unearth. Even if I'd actually finished this monster in 13 minutes, it'd still qualify for Killer of the Year status. The two puzzles that come closest to it in difficulty (for me, anyway) were also by Byron—from 10 and 12 months ago. This one, well, it's got that triple stack of 15's in the middle, but with not a single short 'n' easy crossing—the crossers are all 5 to 9 letters apiece. Precious few gimmes, some tough fill, and dastardly cluing combine to form a perfect storm of cruciverbal destruction. Where I went awry was with [Capella's constellation] at 31-Down; I rather randomly plugged in AURORA, eventually changed the O to an I, but left that second R because SIR seemed a suitable [M. equivalent]—except that M. is a French abbreviation and the answer, SIG, is an Italian abbreviation for "Mister." Okay, so I'm not up on my constellations and didn't jump to AURIGA (which has no prior appearances in the Cruciverb.com database, which I'm delighted to have access to again). The funniest clue was [Introduction to ancient history?] for WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE. Tricky clues abounded: [Supply center?] for PEES, [Numbers on the radio?] for ARBITRON RATINGS, [Black-and-white flash?] for APB, [Reading event?] for GAOL BREAK, and [Something darn useful?] for THREAD KIT. [Trade places] was also deceptive, as SWAP*E*TS could be the verb phrase SWAP SEATS or, if you want to make things hard on yourself, the plural noun SWAP MEETS. Rather obscure words I learned (or relearned) included Bona DEA, the goddess also known as Fauna; that damned constellation, AURIGA; the French river involved in WWI battles, AISNE; SAL volatile, better known as smelling salts; and LILI ST CYR, the burlesque legend. So, to sum up: Whoa. And thank you, sir; may I please have another?